Feb 15, 2014 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Maybe that three-game losing streak the Skaneateles boys basketball team went through at the end of the regular season meant nothing at all.
For when the Section III Class B playoffs got underway Friday night, the no. 11 seed Lakers were reborn, as it went to no. 6 seed Phoenix and, by playing well down the stretch, pushed past the Firebirds 53-49.
While recent defeats to Institute of Technology Central (the OHSL Liberty National division regular-season champions) and East Syracuse-Minoa (a Class A opponent) were understandable, a 55-50 loss to Jordan-Elbridge last Tuesday raised all kinds of alarms.
The Lakers, to its credit, heard those alarms just in time, and did carry an edge of post-season experience over Phoenix, plus confidence that stemmed from beating the Firebirds 63-53 back on Jan. 16, four weeks before their playoff rematch.
Pete Knupp would set the night’s tone, hitting three 3-pointers in the first quarter to send Skaneateles to a 15-8 lead. That would account for most of Knupp’s eventual total of 14 points, though he would add another 3-pointer later in the game.
With Phoenix focusing its defense on Knupp, Bobby Leslie started to flourish, and the Lakers traded baskets with the Firebirds the rest of the half, taking a 31-23 edge to the break.
And that cushion would prove important, for Phoenix outplayed the Lakers in the third quarter, erasing most of that margin and only trailing by two, 39-37, going to the final period. Dylan Doupe, who finished with 20 points, led the Firebirds’ efforts.
From that point on, every possession became important, Skaneateles clinging to its slim margin and Phoenix unable to catch up. It wasn’t until Nick Palmer, who had not scored all night, made two free throws in the final seconds could the Lakers seal the win.
Leslie didn’t stop until he had a game-high 21 points, eight of them from free throws. Aside from Knapp, Collin Foehl, with 13 points, provided most of the help, as Skaneateles had just one field goal beyond the trio of Leslie, Knapp and Foehl, but still advanced.
That no. 11 seed was largely due to the way it played going into the sectional tournament. Once 8-7, it had ended the regular season on a three-game skid, capped by last Tuesday night’s 55-50 loss to Jordan-Elbridge.
Though the Eagles were 4-13 and out of playoff contention, it still wanted one more good memory before the off-season, and started to earn it when it hit lots of shots in the first quarter and roared out to an 18-6 lead.
Skaneateles, who had beaten J-E 60-44 earlier this season, slowly climbed back as the game hit its middle stages, and were only down by one, 39-38, going into the fourth quarter.
But the Eagles didn’t flinch, hanging on as Kyle Matousek, constantly fouled in the final minutes, hit a series of clutch free throws. Matousek finished with 26 points, 14 of them coming from successful foul shots.
Meanwhile, Knupp, with 15 points, and Leslie, with 14 points, led the Lakers’ efforts. Jake Peterson had eight points as Foehl added six points.
All would turn around at Phoenix, though, and the Lakers now get a chance at a bigger prize when it visits no. 3 seed Utica-Notre Dame in Tuesday night’s quarterfinals. A berth in Friday’s semifinal at Onondaga Community College’s Allyn Hall against Sherburne-Earlville or Bishop Grimes is on the line.