Mar 30, 2008 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Another weekend in March, another trip to Glens Falls — and another happy ride home with plenty of room on the bus for trophies and other honors.
Such is the life of the Jamesville-DeWitt boys basketball team, who earned an undisputed claim to being the best Class A team in the state by earning the title at the Federation Tournament of Champions at Glens Falls Civic Center.
First, the Red Rams shook off lots of lethargy to beat Transit Tech 66-49 in Friday night’s semifinal round. Then in the championship game against Long Island Lutheran, the battle went back and forth before J-D hit the big shots in the end and prevailed, 70-66.
Unlike years past, the state public and Federation Tournaments were not held on back-to-back weekends, due to the early observance of Easter.
Instead, once J-D beat East Hampton March 16 to claim the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class A title, it had to settle into a 12-day waiting period before pursuing the Federation crown.
Even with daily practice, a basketball team going nearly two weeks between games is bound to lose some of its sharpness — something J-D found out, the hard way, once it returned to Glens Falls on Friday.
In the way, at first, stood Transit Tech, the champions of New York City’s Public School Athletic League (PSAL). Unlike the frenzied atmosphere of its previous visit, only a few hundred fans rattled around the Civic Center for this contest.
And for a while, the stale play of the Rams matched the stale atmosphere. Little happened in the early minutes until Alshwan Hymes, in his role as the Rams’ designated sparkplug, came off the bench and delivered six points late in the period, giving J-D an 18-10 edge.
J-D maintained that margin through much of the second quarter, only to let a series of turnovers (it finished with 20 on the night) give Transit Tech a chance to recover. At the break, the Rams led by just five, 29-24.
Sensing trouble, the Rams’ stars took over. Brandon Triche and Nick Pascale accounted for much of the offense in the third quarter as it closed the period on a 15-8 run and built its lead to 48-35. Transit Tech would not recover.
Even though Triche fouled out for the first time in his varsity career, he still finished with 14 points, eight rebounds and three assists.
Hymes led with 15 points, while Pascale and Mickey Davis earned 13 points apiece. Josh Lambert (15 points) and Gavin Ellis (13 points) were Transit Tech’s top scorers as it held J-D to just one 3-pointer (by Greg Stern, in the first quarter) in 10 tries and 40 percent shooting overall.
Everyone on the J-D squad knew it would have to play better against Long Island Lutheran, who beat Bishop Ford 77-66 in the other Friday semifinal. And the Rams did play better — but the game proved to be much closer, too.
Up 8-4 in the early going, J-D soon gave up that advantage as Lutheran hit a blizzard of shots late in the first quarter and went up 19-12, the first serious deficit the Rams had faced since its public state semifinal against Peekskill two weeks earlier.
Steadily, J-D fought back, ignoring a long string of whistles that seemed to hamper the play of both teams. By halftime, it was tied, 31-31, and the Rams were gaining confidence again.
That confidence showed in the third quarter when, led by Triche, J-D used runs of 6-0 and 10-2 to take command for the moment. The lead grew to double digits before Jeriel Henriquez (who finished with 29 points and 16 rebounds) hit a pair of 3-pointers late in the period to make it 53-45 going into the fourth quarter.
Lutheran continued to build the momentum, catching up late in the fourth quarter. By the time they entered the final minute, it was tied, 63-63, and J-D’s dreams to match the state Public-Federation doubles it earned in 1990 and 2004 were on hold.
But Triche hit two free throws with 52 seconds left, putting J-D up 65-63, and after a defensive stop, the Rams had the ball and a chance in the final moments to clinch the victory if it could hold on and wait for a foul.
Or at least that was the plan.
In the transition down the court, the ball went to Davis, open from 12 feet out. Normally, a player in this situation, even with a good look at the basket, will wait for a defender to foul him. Instead, Davis took the shot with 14 seconds to play, knowing a miss could give Lutheran one more chance.
The shot swished through, and Davis went from possible goat to hero in a split second. Matt Carpenter’s 3-pointer with 7.2 seconds left cut it to 67-66, but Triche made two free throws and helped force one more turnover to finally seal victory.
Just as in the public state tournament, Triche was MVP at the Federation event, too, and here it was more justified. Against Lutheran, Triche had 29 points, including 13 of 14 free throws, plus 11 rebounds, four assists and three steals.
Hymes cooled off a bit, to seven points, but Pascale had 13 points and Davis added 10 points, the last two of them the most important.
J-D finished with a record of 26-2, a mark gained by a talented core of players that went through years of high expectations, only to finally reach them this winter by claiming every possible championship.
Now, the Rams will see Pascale depart to Colgate University and watch stalwarts like Davis, Stern, Marcus Williams and Mitchell Howe depart. But with Triche and Hymes back as seniors next winter, more glory might lie ahead.