Jan 26, 2013 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
For the second time this winter, the Liverpool boys basketball team had to face a significant portion of its schedule without one of its key players.
Back in December, it was Jeff Edwards sitting out four games. Now it’s Hector Oyola sitting that same amount of time, not returning until a key Feb. 5 contest at Henninger.
In the meantime, the Warriors had to go on, and at first it proved unsuccessful as, on Thursday night, Liverpool lost for the second time this season to Utica Proctor by a 66-47 margin.
Just 24 hours later, Liverpool was in Oswego, and would get a different result. A big night from Caleb Taylor and key contributions from the likes of freshman Tyler Sullivan, pushed the Warriors past the Buccaneers 67-62.
It ended up quite similar to the first encounter between Liverpool and Oswego, which the Warriors pulled out 63-62 on Dec. 18 due to a pair of free throws from Taylor with four seconds to play.
Again, foul shots would factor into the outcome – but not before an active contest that saw the Bucs hit first with an 11-3 run late in the first quarter to grab a 17-10 lead.
Taylor helped the Warriors battle back, notching 11 of his game-high 24 points in the second period, including the last four to push his side ahead for good. Liverpool was up, 37-34, at the break.
All through the third quarter, any time Oswego tried to catch up, Sullivan would pry loose and make a 3-pointer. He had one in the opening seconds of the half and got two more late in the period, including one at the horn that stretched the Warriors’ lead out to 54-46. Sullivan finished with a season-high 15 points.
With less than five minutes left, Liverpool had a 61-50 cushion, but Oswego wasn’t done. The Bucs rattled off nine straight points to cut the margin to 61-59, most of it from the brother tandem of Ryan and Dylan Lavner, who finished with 18 points apiece.
Taylor returned to hurt the Bucs again with a big follow basket of a missed 3-pointer with 1:40 left and a breakaway lay-up to make it 65-59. After an exchange of misses on both ends, Dylan Lavner’s sixth 3-pointer of the night with 19 seconds to play pulled Oswego within three, 65-62.
A tense sequence followed. Liverpool had to use both of its remaining time-outs before it could get the ball inbounds. Oswego, with just four team fouls, had to chase the Warriors’ guards and used most of the remaining clock to get into the bonus situation.
Finally, with nine seconds left Mike Russo went to the line. Just as Taylor had done the month before, Russo made both free throws to clinch a crucial Liverpool win, finishing his night with 10 points as Dom Pirro (nine points) also made key contributions in Oyola’s absence.
A weekend string of three wins in as many nights, including a conquest of rival Cicero-North Syracuse and dramatic comebacks to capture the Juggler Classic, had elevated the Warriors’ status as title contenders.
Then the winter weather showed up. On the surface, the 48-hour postponement of its trip to Proctor appeared to be a break, as it gave the Warriors a chance to get some rest and refreshment before confronting tough back-to-back road tests.
As it turned out, though, the delay, plus the suspension to Oyola, wiped out Liverpool’s momentum. And once that was accomplished, Proctor put together its own wipeout.
Liverpool had lost to these same Raiders 81-60 at home on Dec. 11, and that was when Proctor was dealing with all sorts of early-season trouble. Now the Warriors were facing a confident, red-hot Proctor side that had won three in a row.
That was quite evident at the start. Before Liverpool could settle down, it found itself trailing 20-6 at the end of a disastrous first quarter.
While the Warriors did recover and pull within single digits in the game’s middle stages, Proctor prevented any sustained run, and got away by outscoring Liverpool 23-13 in the final period.
Taylor still had 16 points, while Edwards had 12 points and Mike Russo earned 10 points. But the Raiders showed more depth, as Chris Simmons (18 points, nine rebounds) and Naronn Harvey (12 points, nine rebounds, five steals) controlled the paint and J’von Evans (17 points) and Kerion Barton (nine points) helped, too.
The win at Oswego made Liverpool feel a lot better. Now, at 9-4, it hosts Corcoran (who beat Proctor the night after the Warriors lost to them) and Central Square next week, a prelude to the tough homestretch that includes games against both Henninger and Fayetteville-Manlius.