Mar 02, 2014 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
No one would end up losing Saturday night’s wild, thrilling Section III Class AA boys basketball championship game at the Carrier Dome. One team would just have more points at the end.
Cicero-North Syracuse badly wanted to be that team, but a key departure at an ill-timed moment turned things in Utica Proctor’s favor, and the Raiders rallied to beat the Northstars 83-79 to earn the sectional title.
Ahead 79-74 late in the fourth quarter, C-NS was getting a career-best effort from Connor Evans, who had poured in 33 points, and big performances from Ronnie Williams, who had 21 points, and Troy McIntyre, who contributed 14 points.
But with barely more than two minutes left, Williams fouled out, taking away the Northstars’ primary inside threat, and freeing up Proctor’s defenders, who had struggled all night stopping anything C-NS tried, to go after Evans any time he had the ball.
That led to turnovers, and the Raiders turned them into five unanswered points, all from J’Von Evans, whose jumper with 1:04 left tied it, 79-79. Then, after Connor Evans saw his 3-pointer blocked, Proctor got it back and Tyvon Reed, who would also finish with 33 points, hit the go-ahead basket with 35 seconds left.
C-NS used both of its remaining time-outs trying to answer. Head coach John Haas said that the play was designed to draw the defense toward Connor Evans so that he could find an open teammate and, sure enough, Brian DeMonte was left alone in the corner when three Proctor defenders went to Evans.
The ball never got through, though, as Connor Evans lost control and gave it up. Reed gained possession and, with 9.9 seconds left, was fouled. Under extreme pressure, Reed made both of his free throws, and the Raiders had earned its second sectional title in three years.
For the Northstars, seeking its first sectional title since 2010 (when, ironically, it beat Proctor on Anthony DelCoro’s banked-in 3-pointer at the buzzer), it was a tough defeat to take, but Haas said the real culprit was that his team struggled all night to keep Proctor in check.
“We didn’t defend at all,” he said. “We tried everything, but they still beat us.”
In short, the game did not resemble, in any way, C-NS’s 53-48 win over Proctor on Dec. 6, played early in the season when the Raiders were still finding its form and Connor Evans sat out with a concussion.
Proctor, confident after knocking out defending champion Henninger in the AA semifinals, led most of the first quarter, but Connor Evans changed that in the second period, notching 11 points, including a rare four-point play, to help the Northstars grab a 40-34 halftime lead.
When Connor Evans made yet another 3-pointer early in the third quarter, the C-NS lead grew to 43-34, but Proctor, led by Reed and J’Von Evans (who would finish with 29 points), crawled back and, by the start of the final period, had gone in front 60-57.
Falling behind 64-59 and 73-69 at different points in the fourth quarter, C-NS rallied behind Williams, who notched 11 points, the last of them giving the Northstars that 79-74 edge that would prove fleeting once Williams picked up that crucial fifth foul and went to the bench.
As Proctor advanced to play the Section II champion (Green Tech or Guilderland) next Saturday at Hudson Valley Community College in Troy in the AA regional final, C-NS dealt with the painful end of its 14-7 season, which included an upset of top seed Fayetteville-Manlius in the sectional semifinals.
Williams, DeMonte, Austin Perry, Andrew Boczyk and Bryan Schenk graduate, but the return of Evans, Nick Antonello and Devin Turrell, among others, should still make the Northstars a potent threat in 2014-15 to get back to the Dome – and perhaps, finish it off.