Regardless of the opponent, or the pace they want to set, the West Genesee boys basketball team has shown so far this season that they can adapt to it and still find unqualified success.
And a perfect illustration of this fact was the games it won during the “Hoops For the Hospital” Classic at SRC Arena, especially Friday’s final where it overcame an 18-point deficit to stun Shenendehowa 49-48 in overtime for its ninth win in a row.
“The kids stayed together, and their enthusiasm and energy increased when the game was on the line,” said head coach Fred Kent.
WG, undefeated and no. 18 in the latest state Class AA rankings, spent most of the game against Shenendehowa locked down in the face of the Plainsmen’s airtight zone defense.
Deep into the third quarter, the Wildcats trailed 34-16, and the margin was still double digits in the final period when reserve Adam Dudzinski sparked the comeback with a series of clutch outside shots.
Having whittled down the deficit to six, WG saw Dudzinski hit a 3-pointer to make it 43-40. Following a turnover, Dudzinski got open again from the wing and, with 1:20 left, converted the tying three.
Both teams had shots in the last minute of regulation but could not convert, and it went to OT, where the lead changed hands four times.
Lucas Sutherland, saddled with early foul trouble, had five of WG’s six points in the extra period, including the go-ahead basket with 23 seconds left, and capped the victory by blocking Shen’s last shot in the waning seconds.
Sutherland finished with 13 points, two behind Dudzinski’s total of 15 points, while Will Amica had nine points and Cam Jones got eight points.
A night earlier, WG survived an exciting opening-round game with Rome Free Academy, beating the Black Knights 93-83.
RFA came into the game with a 6-2 record and was dead-set on quickening the tempo, hoping that would force WG into mistakes.
Only that approach seemed to work in the Wildcats’ favor most of the way, especially in a first half where Sutherland burned them often, amassing 22 points as WG built a 52-39 lead.
Whether it was with superb dribbling skills, timely rebounds or a deft steal, Sutherland kept giving himself chances and kept converting on everything from a 3-pointer to a pair of dunks.
Between Sutherland and John Benson, who finished with 16 points, the Wildcats almost ran away, extending its margin to 67-46 on a Sutherland three-point play midway through the third quarter.
But RFA fought back, gradually eating into that 21-point deficit as WG cooled off. A well-balanced attack paid off as Damien Call, with 22 points, led the Black Knights, with Andrew Recco (17 points), Cam Williams (15 points) and Jeremiah Bartholomew (14 points) closely behind.
With a minute to play, the Wildcats lead was down to five, 84-79, but it closed strong by having Amica, Jones and Dudzinski hit nine of 10 free throws. Amica matched Benson’s total of 16 points as Jones, Christian Rossi and Jack McLane each finished with six points.
Meanwhile, in its own Rosemary Corcoran Holiday Classic, Bishop Ludden suffered a rare first-round defeat, falling 64-60 to Section IV’s Owego Free Academy on Thursday night.
After a close first half, Owego outscored the Gaelic Knights 22-10 in the third quarter to go in front 57-42. Somehow, Ludden almost rallied, but the comeback fell short despite Tyler Webster’s 19 points as Champ Reid got 13 points, Monte Johnson had 11 points and Nic Button had seven points.
So Ludden was in Friday’s consolation game against Bishop Timon/St.Jude, from Buffalo, on Dec. 27. Here, the Gaelic Knights prevailed 65-47 as it doubled up the Tigers 20-10 in the second quarter to take control.
A big key was Button finding his shooting touch again, his 28 points featuring a quartet of 3-pointers. Johnson, with 12 points, helped out, as did Mykell Kaigler with nine points as Webster got seven points.