Last Stand at Manley
pblackwell, Mon, March 2nd, 2009
On the first weekend of March, they'll play eight more meaningful basketball games at Manley Field House. And that will be it.
A mere 29 years after John Thompson declared the place closed, the declaration comes true when LaFayette and Fabius-Pompey leave the court after Saturday night's Section III Class C-2 final.
The Lancers and Falcons get the high honor and distinct privilege of the final act. Here's the whole agenda, which kicks off Friday night and includes a recap of what went down in wild and exciting semifinals...
Class B-1 - It's Westhill vs. Marcellus. Brace yourself, it's bound to be intense, physical and loud, and that's just the student sections.
That the Warriors got here after subduing Skaneateles isn't any big surprise. Many, many foes have wilted in the face of Westhill's defense. The scary part was that Dan Ross got shut down by the Lakers, but Tom Fisher and Mike McMullen picked up the offensive slack. The Warriors can beat you many ways.
Marcellus is another matter. The moment the injured Will Fiacchi stepped on that court, way ahead of schedule, the Mustangs got back on even terms with Bishop Grimes and broke up the Cobras' 10-game win streak in an OT classic. Remember, as a whole unit, Marcellus was unbeaten before Fiacchi got hurt in January. Now that the whole gang's reunited, they've got more than an even chance to get the banner at Westhill's expense. I would be shocked if this game wasn't ultra-close to the end.
Class B-2 - This Warriors vs. Mustangs game doesn't require as much explanation. Hannibal wants a three-peat. Mount Markham stands in the way.
Hannibal, with a stellar senior class and coach Ken Sturges retiring, will not tolerate anything less than a sectional title. Battle-tested in the OHSL Liberty gauntlet that included Marcellus and Westhill, the Warriors blasted Lowville by 23 in the semifinals and have shown little weakness in the playoffs so far.
You have to give 21-1 Mount Markham a lot of credit. Even with its star, Josh Pugh, shut down (eight points), the Mustangs rallied past Adirondack 56-53. But Pugh needs to be big if Mount Markham wants to keep up with Hannibal - it's that simple.
Class D-1 - To start the Saturday slate, you have Hamilton and Sackets Harbor, the same matchup as the girls Class D final. But that's where the similarities end.
These Emerald Knights are not unbeaten, but they're ready, having faced Class C teams most of the season. With stars like Derrick Ceicola and Nate Broedel at the forefront, Hamilton wants to finish the job it didn't a year ago, when it fell in the D-1 final to Sackets Harbor.
Sackets was in D-2 in '08 when it made the state final four. Now in D-1, the Nick D'Allesandro-led Patriots toppled top seed Belleville-Henderson 51-39. Play that kind of defense, and Sackets can beat Hamilton, too. Who will handle the pressure best?
Class D-2 - So it comes down to New York Mills and Otselic Valley, and somewhere DeRuyter coach Todd Widrick is wishing that transfers couldn't move from school to school so easily.
It was those transfers that helped New York Mills take out the top-seeded, state-ranked Rockets. It also gives the Marauders a decided edge against Otselic, who survived Oppenheim-Ephratah in the other D-2 semifinal. So does having a veteran coach like Mike Adey on the sidelines who knows about the pressures of playing on a stage like this.
Class AA - Here we go, Henninger against CBA, two teams with identical 18-4 marks clashing to see if the Black Knights repeat, or the Brothers take over.
Of course, Henninger almost didn't get here. It needed overtime (again) to beat Fayetteville-Manlius in the semifinals, saved by Christian Smith's 3-pointer late in the OT session. By contrast, the deep, experienced Brothers led young Utica Proctor from start to finish, with Mike Goodman having his way in the paint.
We all know that CBA beat Henninger twice in the regular season. Funny, Utica Proctor did the same to the Black Knights in 2007-08, and Henninger got revenge at Manley, Ben Cronin finally getting the best of Deandre Preaster.
Here, we can sense that, like in those first two meetings, Stefan Thompson will match anything Kihary Blue does. Same thing with the men in the paint, with Goodman and Greg Thomson on one side, Jermaine Taylor and Jon Cooper on the other. Perhaps it's the bench that gives CBA an edge...but it's so slight that any step up in Henninger's game will mean back-to-back banners.
Class A - Utica-Notre Dame coach Mike Durr sat courtside last Saturday night LeMoyne as Jamesville-DeWitt toyed with Oneida. Face it - the Red Rams could have hit 100 had Brandon Triche and the other starters not sat at the end of the third quarter.
With anything less than a second consecutive state title not an option, J-D only has to make sure it doesn't overlook the Jugglers, who had a lot more of a struggle getting rid of Whitesboro.
Much will be focused on Triche and Pat Moore, UND's superb junior, but it's the rest of the weapons that makes J-D so scary. DaJuan Coleman, Alshwan Hymes, Lamar Kearse - any of them would be the star player on any other team in the area. Put togehter, they're a joy to watch, unless you're an opponent...such as the Jugglers will be. Think Jim Boeheim is delaying his flight to Milwaukee until after he sees Triche at Manley?
Class C-1 - For the last two games, we have, in essence, an OHSL Patriot Division invitational, with four neighbors who know each other ready to go at it.
It starts with Tully and Onondaga in C-1. The Black Knights, strong all season playing ferocious defense and spreading the offensive wealth, have kept it up in the playoffs, though Sandy Creek made Tully sweat in a 45-40 semifinal. What is certain is that, against a team coached by Ryan Dando, you'll have to earn every basket.
No one who watched OCS in January thought they'd be here. But the no. 9 seed Tigers clicked at just the right time, shocking top seed Cooperstown and, as a follow-up, ripping Westmoreland by 17 in the semifinals. No doubt, Tully's defense will zero in on Ted Zabel and dare the other OCS players to win it.
Class C-2 - Will the winner of this game declare Manley Field House officially closed at center court with the C-2 championship banner at hand?
Fabius-Pompey is as big a surprise as Onondaga here, because of who they knocked off. With mistake-free basketball, the Falcons stunned top seed and defending champ West Canada Valley. Try and gang up on Zievuan Wright if you want, but fellow guards Mitchell Knapp and Sean Emerson can hurt just as much, so facing F-P is a headache for anyone.
That includes LaFayette, who made a stupendous comeback in the semifinals against Watertown IHC, rallying from 16 down to win 53-50, Shane Fox getting the go-ahead 3-pointer. Fox and forward Nick Grzymala lead the Lancers' attack, and they're already winners for that whole pink-jersey thing that they did to raise cancer awareness this season.
So will they wear the pink in the last game at Manley?