One Last Manley Classic
pblackwell, Sun, March 8th, 2009
True, they played eight games over two days in the last go-round of Section III basketball finals at Manley Field House.
Jamesville-DeWitt, Westhill, Hannibal, Onondaga, LaFayette, Sackets Harbor and New York Mills all took turns claiming banners and creating a lifetime of great memories for themselves.
Yet it was the Class AA final between CBA and Henninger that belonged on the short-list of all-time Manley games, and that includes anything involving Dave Bing or Louis Orr.
That wasn't the case for three quarters. Henninger did all it could, at least during that time frame, to repeat its 2008 act of losing two regular-season games, then winning the third and most important encounter, with CBA in the role Utica Proctor occupied 12 months ago.
The final period began 45-33, the Brothers behind, needing something special. What they got from Stefan Thompson went way, way beyond special.
Drives to the basket, jump shots, free throws - you name it, Thompson did in in those last eight minutes of regulation, 21 points in all, and what had been a big deficit was now a 63-61 lead.
Somehow, Henninger recovered from all this to tie it with Jon Cooper free throws with 8.5 seconds left that forced overtime at 63-63.
What happened in OT was a miniature version of the fourth quarter - Henninger going up by five on three different occasions, then unable to hold on in the face of CBA's defensive pressure despite Kihary Blue gathering up 31 points.
By now, Thompson had 40 points, but he watched Troy Bullock hit a crucial 3-pointers in the final minute of OT to bring the margin back to one, 75-74, then used his arm to make the biggest play of all after James Bardenett missed two crucial free throws with 10.1 seconds left.
Somehow, the Black Knights forgot to mark Greg Thomson running back to the basket. Stefan threw a long pass to him, and Greg hit the open lay-up with 2.2 seconds showing.
CBA 76, Henninger 75. Buddy Wleklinski said it was as exciting and satisfying as any win he ever coached, and he's been at this for 25 years. You can only imagine how inconsolable Henninger felt on the other side, too.
Arguably,the two most memorable games of the year involved CBA winning by one - first the end of J-D's 38-game win streak on Feb. 13, and now this. About the only thing that could be better is winning a state title, something the Brothers will start going after in the regionals next weekend.
That being said, all the other finals at Manley had their own character points, too.
It began Friday night with Westhill and Marcellus in a B-1 rivalry. Disregarding its youth, the Warriors traded baskets for 2 1/2 quarters, then clamped down on the perimeter and got away behind the trio of Mike McMullen, Dan Ross and Tom Fisher.
The 56-44 win had to feel good for Kevin King, who did time at Manley as an SU player in the '70s. Then Westhill got just the Class B final it wanted.
Hannibal fell behind Mount Markham 2-0 in the B-2 final, then scored the next 22 points. End of drama. Cruising home 83-48, Hannibal will need to beat Westhill (with whom it split in the regular season) Tuesday night at Cicero-North Syracuse for a Class B three-peat. No doubt, the senior quartet of Brendan Nollet, Tyler Baker, Jeff LaMont and Derrick Shoults should be ready.
As for Class D, Sackets Harbor just might do it again. For much of the D-1 final, the Patriots couldn't get away from Hamilton, but a timely 9-0 run (helped by Matt Broedel fouling out) down the stretch helped Sackets conquer the Emerald Knights 56-49.
Not favored in any of the last two rounds, Sackets might find the same situation when it plays New York Mills Tuesday at the J-D gym.
The Marauders, led by super-transfers Fred Russ (he had 22 points), jumped out 20-9 on Otselic Valley in the D-2 final, then just kept answering everything the Vikings threw at them the rest of the way before taking a 70-62 victory. This is the fifth straight year Mills or Sackets (or both) has won a piece of the Class D title. Something close to a dynasty.
Speaking of which, J-D's Class A final against Utica-Notre Dame came after the CBA-Henninger epic. Thus, the Red Rams had an absolutely impossible act to follow, even by their ridiculous standards.
The Jugglers would make a second-quarter surge, but otherwise the suspense centered around where the margin would be at night's end.
Brandon Triche was good (22 points, with some great dunks thrown in), but freshman DaJuan Coleman was better - 27 points, absolutely owning the glass. By a comfortable 86-60 margin, J-D kept the dream of repeating as state champs alive.
Now it was Class C to close it out. In C-1, Tully held Onondaga to seven first-half points, and the Tigers' unlikely run from a no. 9 seed appeared to be over.
But OCS cranked up its own D, caught up by the fourth quarter, and used big baskets down the stretch by Ted Zabel and Taylor Bassett to pull out yet another surprise, winning 37-35.
Remember, the Tigers were only 11-9 in the regular season. Now it's just one win against LaFayette Tuesday night at OCC from venturing into the state tournament. Do you dare doubt OCS anymore?
LaFayette offered the grace note late Saturday night as the rain raged outside, gradually pulling clear after a low-scoring first half to beat Fabius-Pompey 53-39. John Greeley got the honor of the last star turn in the building by scoring 26 points to subdue the Falcons.
It was difficult to leave Manley. All of us who played there or covered games there knew the place had a unique aura. It will take a long, long time for any other basketball venue to have a similar power to inspire. Just ask Stefan Thompson...