Jan 21, 2013 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
It turned out to be the best weekend possible for the Liverpool boys basketball team.
Not getting any rest after finishing a regular-season sweep of archrival Cicero-North Syracuse last Friday, the Warriors went to Utica and, through two hard-fought games that featured tremendous clutch play, captured its second straight title in the 40th annual Juggler Classic.
It all started with Saturday’s opening round, pitting Liverpool against Nazareth, from Brooklyn, ranked no. 5 in the state in Class A. The Warriors would need every bit of its late-game poise to prevail by a score of 51-50.
Down by one, 50-49, with 19 seconds left, Liverpool’s Mike Russo was fouled. Calmly, Russo made both of his free throws to give the Warriors a one-point edge.
Still, Nazareth had the last shot, and a chance to win. But Caleb Taylor blocked the potential go-ahead shot, the buzzer sounded and Liverpool held on.
Prior to that, Hector Oyola had accounted for much of the Warriors’ heroics. Trailing 16-11 after one period, Liverpool started to crawl back as Oyola kept getting open shots, and kept converting.
All told, Oyola had 25 points and 12 rebounds, and that, combined with stellar defense, helped the Warriors prevent Nazareth from pulling away and setting up the late drama.
Taylor, who had 20 points the night before against C-NS, had just one field goal, but more than made up for it with nine rebounds and his timely late block. Russo finished with eight points.
More drama was in store for Sunday’s championship game, where Liverpool took on Bishop Ford, also from Brooklyn, who had beaten host Utica-Notre Dame 59-57 in the other part of the opening round.
In keeping with the tournament theme, the final came down to playing well in the closing stages – and Liverpool was close to perfect, which resulted in a 53-47 victory over Ford.
The Warriors trailed by four, 47-43, but after a steal, Russo drilled a 3-pointer with 1:29 left, cutting Ford’s lead to one.
Another defensive stop followed, and Jeff Edwards, quiet in the Nazareth game, drove to the basket and converted a go-ahead lay-up with 34 seconds left.
Now in front 48-47, the Warriors again made a big stop on the defensive end. Forced to foul, Ford sent Taylor to the line with 11 seconds left, and after making the first free throws, Taylor missed the second – but got his own rebound and converted, and suddenly it was 51-47.
Oyola, named the tournament MVP, would drain two more free throws to seal the victory, one made possible by a defense that limited Ford to just five points in the fourth quarter.
Just as with Nazareth, Liverpool trailed most of the first half, taking a 26-22 deficit to the break, and was unable to solve Ford’s defense until the closing minutes. Edwards would finish with 16 points, while Oyola and Taylor got 12 points apiece. Russo added eight points.
Propelled to an 8-3 mark by the weekend sweep, Liverpool would return to the same area Tuesday to face Utica Proctor, trying to avenge an 81-60 defeat to the Raiders on Dec. 11. Yet another tough road game at Oswego follows on Friday night.