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Saturday, April 19, 2014 at 6:35 am

Batavia baseball bounces back to beat Akron

post by Nick Sabato in baseball, batavia, Batavia HS, high school sports, sports

After winning the first two games of the season, the Batavia baseball squad was handed its first loss of the season in an emphatic fashion, losing to Honeoye Falls-Lima 15-2 on Thursday afternoon.

Twenty-four hours later, the Blue Devils got back on track, beating up on Akron, 15-8.

“I thought it was a good comeback win for us,” said Batavia Head Coach Rick Saunders. “We got lit up pretty good yesterday by a good HF-L team. Today we came out and jumped out on top and got those three runs in the first.”

Batavia opened up the game with three runs on three hits in the bottom of the first inning on a bases-clearing hit by Zeke Lynn.

The Tigers would battle back, loading the bases with one out in the second inning.

Akron would score on a fielder’s choice by D.J. Carlson, then on a passed ball, and they then tied it up on a RBI single by Zach Pfentner.

Quinten Weis would settle down after that, pitching two more scoreless innings and allowing just one more hit before Greg Mruczek relieved him.

“He was a little wild to start the game,” Saunders said of Weis. “I thought he settled down the rest of the game and he threw well that last two innings he was in the game.”

The Blue Devils regained the lead in the third after Nick Bauer was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded.

Steve Borowczyk appeared to get himself out of the jam, ending the inning with the bases loaded and just one run allowed, but it was not to be.

Batavia exploded for four runs on four hits in the bottom of the fourth inning to extend the lead to 8-3.

Luke McComb was walked with the bases loaded, followed by an RBI single from Rich Francis before Bauer drove in two runs with a double to right field.

Akron appeared to make a bit of a comeback in the top of the fifth, getting two runs off of Mruczek (helped by a few defensive miscues), but he settled down to strike out the side in the sixth.

“I thought he threw the ball real well,” Saunders said of Mruczek. “I think our defense let him down a little bit. That happens, these are high school kids. If we played tight defense like we did in the first three games, we probably only would have let up a few runs.”

The Blue Devils' batters went to work in the bottom of the frame to put the game out of reach as they sent seven runners across home plate, including a two-run single from senior reserve Pat Wrobel.

The Tigers got three runs in the seventh, but it wasn’t enough to get close.

“The biggest difference between yesterday and today was that we hit better,” Saunders said. “We got the bases-clearing hit by Lynn and that was clutch for us today.”

Lynn finished the game 2-for-5 with four RBIs, while Bauer went 1-for-4 with four RBIs. As a team, Batavia combined for 14 hits on the game.

Weis picked up the win for the Devils, allowing three runs on three hits in four innings pitched.

Borowczyk took the loss for Akron, allowing eight runs in six innings pitched.

Batavia improves to 3-1 on the season, and next travel to Aquinas on Tuesday. First pitch is scheduled for 4:30 p.m.

Friday, March 7, 2014 at 8:09 pm

With a little history between them, Notre Dame set to meet Sherman in Far West Regional

post by Nick Sabato in basketball, high school sports, Notre Dame, sports

Saturday’s New York State Class D Far West Regional contest will feature two programs that are no stranger to the magnitude of the game.

Notre Dame is appearing in the Far West Regional for the sixth time in school history, and the second in three years. Meanwhile, Sherman will be representing Section VI for the second-straight year.

While Sherman returns their top three scorers from the team that fell to University Prep a year ago, Notre Dame has a vastly different look from the team that advanced to the state semifinals in 2012.

Tim McCulley started in 2012 as a sophomore, but he is the lone returning player from that team. But, the Fighting Irish may not need to rely on his experience too heavily.

“They’re always talking to him about this and that,” said Notre Dame Head Coach Mike Rapone. “They’re going to use him, but they are experienced enough now that they should be ready to go.”

The Wildcats will look to continue to rely on their hot play over the course of the season, along with their experience from a year ago.

“We lost to U-Prep last year in this game,” said Sherman Head Coach Cory Emory. “But we returned pretty much our whole team, and we worked hard in the off-season. We had a lot of games that were close and then we had a run and were able to stretch the lead.”

Both teams come in on a roll, as the Fighting Irish have won 10 straight games, and 15 out of 16 since the New Year, while the Wildcats come in 20-1 on the season and are winners of nine in a row.

Notre Dame will undoubtedly be led by McCulley, who is averaging 23.7 points per game, 8.7 rebounds, 5.3 assists, 2.8 steals and two blocks per game this season, but as of late he is getting some help from his teammates.

While McCulley has reached 20 points in each of the last 12 games, senior Alec Covel has been in double figures in six straight to give the Irish another scoring threat.

“[McCulley] scores points so many ways,” Rapone said. “With Covel stepping up and becoming more assertive on the offensive end, it takes away those junk defenses that teams play against us.”

Unlike Notre Dame, Sherman will not rely on their interior play, but with the play of their guards.

Senior guards Andrew Graham and Ryan Robson are the team’s leading scorers for the second-straight year, with Graham averaging 14.8 points per game and Robson averaging 12.8.

“We could be a little contrasting in playing style to Notre Dame,” Emory said. “We aren’t very tall and we like to press in order to take advantage of our quickness.”

Their top inside player, Jake Card, only stands 6-foot-2 and comes in averaging 9.5 points per game and 9.1 rebounds per game.

Many people may remember Sherman from a season ago, as their girl’s squad fell to Notre Dame in the Far West Regional.

They also may remember some controversial comments from Sherman girls' coach and athletic director Mel Swanson, who expressed his displeasure with private schools playing public schools following the game.

''It is tough. It's an inequality,” said Swanson of Notre Dame. “Their players played hard and they were very good players and they did great things with the basketball. But when you're a small school like ours that graduates 30-something kids and you have to compete at that level it's just such a different field they get to draw from."

It’s an ongoing debate statewide, as Section VI does not allow private schools to participate in sectionals. However, Emory does not care who his boys play.

“Whoever we end up playing is who we end up playing,” Emory said. “Is it fair? That’s up for debate. You can go around and around on that topic. But we play who we play, and at this level, whoever we play is probably going to be pretty good.”

Rapone and the Fighting Irish will be focusing on how to stop the Wildcats on Saturday, and advance to Glens Falls.

“They have been there once before and have the experience,” Rapone said. “They use a lot of presses and a lot of traps. It’s something we haven’t seen a lot of, so we will have to get to work on that so everyone knows what their job is.”

Notre Dame and Sherman will square off on Saturday at Buffalo State College for the opportunity to advance to the state semifinals in Glens Falls. Tip-off is scheduled for noon.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014 at 9:49 am

Notre Dame advances to Far West Regional

post by Nick Sabato in basketball, high school sports, Notre Dame, sports

They say that championship teams peak at the right time of the year.

It’s March and things are coming together at the right time for Notre Dame, with one game separating them and a trip to Glens Falls after a 67-34 victory over Houghton Academy in the Section V consolidation game.

“The last six or seven games have been our best games of the season,” said Notre Dame Head Coach Mike Rapone. “That’s what you want. Hopefully the peak is going up and we don’t hit a plateau.”

One player that seems to be peaking is senior Alec Covel.

After reaching double-digits just once in the first 16 games of the season, Covel has scored in double figures in each of the last six contests.

In Saturday’s Class D1 final, Covel scored 11 points in the third quarter to help seal the win, but tonight he started the game hot to give his team the momentum.

“He’s been a work in progress all year,” said Rapone. “I’ve been trying to make him believe that he’s as good as I think he is. Now, he’s not hesitating. He got us started tonight. I’m glad to see him playing well.”

The senior forward got the Irish going, scoring seven of his 12 points in the first quarter as they used a 12-3 run to start the game.

“I haven’t been hesitating to let it go,” Covel said. “It just seems to be going down.”

Notre Dame jumped out to a 34-15 lead at halftime and cruised to the easy win.

Tim McCulley had another stellar game despite a slow start.

After going just 1-for-5 from the field for three points in the first quarter, McCulley slowly came alive to finish with a game-high 24 points.

“Their game plan was to keep him out of the lane,” said Rapone of McCulley. “He won’t force it. He just waits for them to clear and steps back. The one thing that he does that a lot of high school kids have lost is his pull-up jump shot. It just gives him another weapon.”

The senior reached the 20-point mark for the 14th straight game and surpassed 500 points for the season. He also added 12 rebounds, two steals and two blocks.

First-year senior center Charlie Herbert once again had a monster night on the boards, collecting 16 rebounds, with six coming on the offensive end as Notre Dame out-rebounded Houghton 50-23 for the game.

“He’s the difference between us being good and very good,” Rapone said of Herbert. “It gives us flexibility and substitution. At the beginning of the year I thought if we got three or four minutes out of him we’d be good. He’s so athletic and he’s like a sponge. Every time you tell him something he just soaks it up.”

Derek Brooks scored 18 points and grabbed five rebounds for Houghton Academy (12-11).

Notre Dame (19-3) advances to the Far West Regional to take on Section VI representative Sherman (20-1).

The Wildcats are outscoring their opponents by an average of 63 to 42 this season and are led by guard Andrew Graham (14.8 points per game) and Ryan Robson (12.8 points per game).

Sherman fell to University Prep in the Far West Regional last season 71-55.

Meanwhile, Notre Dame is making their sixth appearance in this game in school history, and last time was in 2012.

The game will take place Saturday at Buffalo State College, with tip-off set for noon.

Photos by Howard Owens

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Monday, March 3, 2014 at 12:46 am

Batavia gets battered by Geneva in Class A2 final

post by Nick Sabato in basketball, batavia, high school sports, sports

After losing five starters from last year’s state semi-final team, not many people expected Batavia to reach the sectional finals this season…but they did.

Unfortunately, the magic ran out in the Class A2 at Blue Cross Arena tonight, as Geneva rolled to a 63-30 win.

The Blue Devils never led in the contest, as the Panthers dominated from start to finish.

“They’re very good, they have a lot of weapons,” said Batavia Head Coach Buddy Brasky. “Their game plan was good. They sat a few guys in the paint, and whenever Justice (Fagan) and Jeff (Redband) would get by their man, there would be two more waiting for them.”

Batavia hung tough in the first quarter, trailing by just five. But the second quarter was all Geneva.

The Panthers outscored the Blue Devils 17-3 in the frame and cruised into halftime with a 30-11 lead.

Batavia struggled to find their shot all night, as Redband scored all 11 of the team’s points in the first half and the team shot just 32 percent from the field for the game.

Geneva also cleaned the glass with ease all night, keeping Batavia without an offensive rebound until midway through the third quarter as James Sims Jr. and Terrell Johnson Jr. had their way.

“They were bigger and stronger than we were,” Brasky said. “They doubled our rebounding total; they killed us on the boards. They played better than us in every facet of the game.”

While Sims and Johnson took care of business inside, that left Steven Dolgos open all night and he responded with a season-high 19 points.

“Our concern was keeping Johnson and Sims away from the basket,” Brasky said. “We wanted to close out short and sag in to keep them away from the basket. He took advantage of what we were giving him.”

Dolgos was name tournament MVP after going 5-of-8 from behind the three-point arc.

While Redband had a respectable game, scoring 16 points, Justice Fagan never got going.

The senior who has been reliable all season long, was held to just five points on 2-of-7 shooting by Geneva’s Akia Johnson.

“He did a nice job, but it was more than just him,” Brasky said. “Any time Justice beat him, they had an extra guy standing right in the lane. They weren’t guarding a couple of our guys; they just stood them in the lane, so it was tough for Justice to get to the basket.”

Despite a tough end to the season, Batavia far surpassed many expectations from the start of the season.

“They’re a great group of kids,” Brasky said. “They were a true team, they played their role. We had no problems; they did everything I asked them to do. All they wanted to do was win. If they didn’t play their roles like that, they wouldn’t have gone to a sectional final this year. My hat is off to my team and I’m very proud to be their coach.”

Batavia finishes the season 14-6, while Geneva (19-2) advances to play Rochester East in the Class A regional play-in game.

Photos by Howard Owens.

To purchase prints, click here.

Sunday, March 2, 2014 at 12:30 pm

ND shows Hart as Rapone earns record-tying 9th Section V title

post by Nick Sabato in basketball, high school sports, Notre Dame, sports

What more can Notre Dame Head Coach Mike Rapone accomplish in his career?

He became the first coach in Section V history to reach 600 wins. He’s won two state championships, 30 Genesee Region League championships, and after a 62-37 victory over Jasper-Troupsburg in the Class D1 final, he tied the Section V record for most sectional titles with nine.

“It’s all about the kids,” Rapone said. “The kids are the ones who earn it. We’re just along for the ride. It’s fun coaching these kids. It’s fun coming to practice every day. It’s the small reward I have for the great opportunity I have.”

Things looked bleak early for Notre Dame, as they found themselves down by 7 after the first quarter and as many as 10 at one point. But then they got some instant offense from perhaps an unlikely source.

Senior reserve Jason Hart (and Rapone’s neighbor) came off the bench to knock down four three-pointers in the first half to help propel the Irish back in front.

Hart would finish 5-for-5 from long range for the game and finished with a season-high 15 points.

“I was nervous coming into the game,” Hart said. “Coach made me the sixth man this year. He told me my role was to come off the bench and be a spark. Everybody knows their roles on this team and I filled mine today.”

The Fighting Irish outscored Jasper-Troupsburg 19-8 in the second quarter and were able to take a 30-26 lead into halftime and never looked back.

“We made a couple of changes on defense,” Rapone said. “That’s the way we’ve been playing all year. We’ve been playing good defense all year. And we have a few players that can make shots if they’re left open.”

The second half was all Notre Dame.

The Irish came out on fire to start the third quarter, opening on an 18-3 run.

Senior Alec Covel was a huge part of the surge, as he scored all 11 of his points on that streak, knocking down his first four shots of the second half.

If you are wondering why Tim McCulley hasn’t been mentioned, don’t worry.

McCulley had another monster game, scoring 16 of his game-high 24 points in the first half, while pulling down nine rebounds, dishing out four assists and making four steals.

“Tim is so steady, you don’t even notice what he’s doing,” Rapone said. “He kept chipping away and getting some baskets. Then Covel got hot to start the second half and broke it open.”

McCulley’s effort earned him tournament MVP honors, making him just the third player in school history to be selected to three sectional all-tournament teams.

“We’re on a big stage,” McCulley said. “Everyone was just so excited to be there. It’s just something so special. These are like my best friends, it means a lot.”

With his 9th sectional title in 18 championship game appearances, Rapone ties former Lyons Head Coach Dean Schott for most championships in the open tournament era (1975). It is quite remarkable, considering that Notre Dame had lost two out of three and was just 4-2 when the New Year began.

“We have seven or eight kids that are really good players, who don’t have every aspect of their game,” Rapone said. “We have a lot of good role players, and that showed tonight. I’m just so proud of these guys, because at the beginning of the year I didn’t know if we’d get there. We were struggling with people accepting their roles, but since January I couldn’t have asked for anything more.”

Covel and Hart joined McCulley on the all-tournament team, as they combined to go 8-of-10 from beyond the three-point arc.

Bryan Guild led the way for Jasper-Troupsburg (18-3) with 11 points and five rebounds, while Dalton Cady added 10 points and seven rebounds.

Notre Dame (18-3) will next take on Houghton Academy (12-10), who defeated RCMCS in the Class D1 title game 75-55.

The game will be played Tuesday at Letchworth High School, with tip-off at 7 p.m. The winner will represent Section V in the Far West Regional next Saturday at Buffalo State College.

Photos by Howard Owens.

To purchase photos, click here.

Sunday, March 2, 2014 at 10:14 am

Lyons slays the Dragons in the Class C2 final

post by Nick Sabato in basketball, high school sports, pembroke, sports

The historic run by the Pembroke Girls Basketball Team came to an end just one victory shy of their goal…to win the first sectional championship in school history.

The Lady Dragons were out-muscled all night long, as they fell to Lyons, 50-36, in the Class C2 championship game.

It became apparent very early in the contest that Lyons would have the upper hand on the glass, as they out-rebounded Pembroke 30 to 9 in the first half, with 17 of them coming on the offensive boards.

“We knew that rebounding was going to be the key,” said Pembroke Head Coach Mike Wilson. “We planned for it. We tried to take some of their bigger kids out of it, but we weren’t able to do that. They just out-rebounded us.”

Despite the massive advantage on the boards, the Lady Dragons kept things close, trailing by just three at halftime after a pair of back-to-back three-pointers from Breanna Johnson to end the second quarter.

Pembroke got off to a strong start coming out of halftime as senior Chance Alexyn scored four quick points, but things quickly slid down hill.

Lyons would hold Pembroke to one point in the final 7:07 of the third quarter as they used a 12-1, to pull away for good, as turnovers doomed the Dragons.

“We’ve been turning the ball over 15 times or less per game for the last month,” Wilson said. “But we probably had 15 in that quarter. We were sloppy with the basketball. We gave them too many second-chance opportunities.”

Tournament MVP Abbie Shields dominated all night for the Lions, as she scored 17 points, grabbed 23 rebounds (12 offensive), and three blocks.

Meanwhile, Pembroke star Breanna Johnson struggled to find her shot throughout the match.

The senior class valedictorian managed just three points in the second half and was held without a field goal.

“We didn’t make enough baskets,” Wilson said. “We just didn’t finish. We’ve been finishing shots; we’ve been playing well down the stretch. Unfortunately we came up short.”

Despite the loss, the Dragons had one of their most successful seasons in school history and perhaps the best player to play in the program has played her final game.

Johnson finished with 11 points and four assists in her final high school game and her performance was good enough to earn her all-tournament team honors alongside her sister, Aralyse, and Alexyn.

“All of my seniors are very special to me,” Wilson said. “Bre and I definitely have a special connection. We’ve spent a lot of time developing her game. She has been nothing but dedicated to what we have wanted to do.”

Alexyn had a solid outing in her last game, scoring 10 points, pulling down four rebounds and three steals for Pembroke (15-6).

Lyons out-rebounded the Dragons 54-21 for the game, with 28 of those coming on the offensive boards.

Taniqua Johnson was also named to the all-tournament team for Lyons, as she scored a game-high 18 points and added 15 rebounds.

Photos by Howard Owens.

To purchase prints, click here.

Saturday, March 1, 2014 at 5:15 pm

With few shots dropping, Notre Dame girls end season with 55-31 loss in Section V championship game

post by Howard Owens in basketball, high school sports, Notre Dame, sports

The way Head Coach Dave Peru figured it, if his Fighting Irish girls could hold Bishop Kearney to 60 or fewer points, Notre Dame could walk away with the Section V Class B2 title.

While ND held Kearney to 55, what Pero didn't count on was his team hitting less than 15 percent of its shots from the field.

"I don't think it was a case of nerves," Pero said of his team, which won a Class D state championship last season. "It's just a matter of us not being able to put the ball in the basket. You're going to have games like that."

Kearney took the title with a 55-31 win.

In all, the Irish missed 55 shots.

Pero thought Notre Dame had a good plan for dealing with Kearney's press and the Irish even seemed to have the Kings winded at the half.

The Irish got some great opportunities to score as a result of breaking through the press, Pero said, but the ball just wouldn't drop through the hoop.

"They've got a great team over there," Pero said. "I'm very proud of what we brought to the table. Our kids played hard. I think if we could have gotten a few shots knocked down for us, who knows what could have happened."

This was the final game for five Notre Dame seniors, and coming out with two minutes to play was clearly an emotional moment for team leaders Laurie Call and Mel Taylor.

"I'm so proud of (the team)," Pero said. "They're a great group of girls. I'd take these girls anywhere. For the seniors, we're going to miss them, but for next season, we start working again tomorrow."

Taylor finished with eight points, as did Shea Norton. Taylor and Norton where named to the tournament's all-star team. Emma Francis scored six.

For Kearney, BriAsia Mason scored 15, Emmanuella Edoka, 11, and Arianne Smith, 10. Mason hit three threes.

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Thursday, February 27, 2014 at 2:53 pm

Notre Dame and Bishop Kearney set to clash in Section V Class B2 finals

post by Howard Owens in basketball, high school sports, Notre Dame, sports

It's probably the outcome Section V officials predicted when they moved Notre Dame girls up three classes and Bishop Kearney up one to put both teams in Class B2.

The two private Catholic schools will face each other Saturday in the B2 Section V Championship. One team will eliminate the other and Section V officials can rest assured only one private-school squad gets to advance toward a possible State Championship.

The Fighting Irish enter the Section V Championship game with a 19-1 record after a close-call, overtime win against Bath-Haverling, 50-49. Bishop Kearney is 17-2 after having a much easier time of it against Le Roy last night, winning 75-47.

For ND last night, the Lady Rams, who entered the game with five losses, proved to be a handful.

"We knew they were a very good team," said ND Head Coach Dave Pero. "The thing we didn't know coming into the game is how quick they were. We had trouble defensively getting stops. We missed a few easy baskets underneath, but I think the thing that helped is that they (the ND girls) had the will to finish."

Bath's Mackenzie Smith proved a challenging opponent. She's tall, fast and can shoot. It was Laurie Call's job to defend her.

"Laurie had a tough time of it in her match-up with number three," Pero said. "Number three probably had six inches on Laurie and I think we finally found a girl that is almost as quick as Laurie and that's dangerous."

It turned out, the Lady Rams were a lot harder to play than they looked on film, said senior guard Mel Taylor.

"We knew three was going to be athletic, but I didn't think she was going to be jumping three foot higher than what we were playing defense on," Taylor said. "It was intimidating, it was adjusting to what we're not used to playing in regular season, but we did pretty well."

Smith scored 20 points, snagged 10 rebounds and had five assists.

Call, who typically doesn't get into foul trouble, was tagged with four.

"It was physical game," Call said. "It was really physical at both ends of the court. I caught myself reaching and so did the refs."

Taylor scored 14 points to lead the Irish. Emma Francis, nine, Rebecca Krenzer, eight, Shea Norton, seven, and Call, six.

Helping Smith out on offense for the Rams was Angelo Binkowski with 15 points, including two threes.

One of the side stories of the game was how quickly the refs, particularly one of them, were to call jump balls. A jump ball is supposed to be called when two players share possession of the ball, but often it looked like a player had possession while an opponent was merely reaching.

One such called came in the final 15 seconds of regulation when Norton grabbed an offensive rebound and Bath's Brooke Buckley was reaching in while Norton was trying to shoot. Rather than a shooting foul, it was called a jump ball.

A shooting foul there, with the scored knotted at 41, could have ended the game in regulation.

The Section V refs have reportedly been instructed to be quicker on the jump ball calls to cut down on foul calls.

Pero said them are the breaks of game.

"It did seem a little quick, but they see what they see and they're not going to change their minds," Pero said. "You've got to live with it. I learned a long time ago if you want to argue with them (the refs), you're going to lose. They've got the final say and overall the officials do a great job. They're the officials and the coaches are the coaches and we're supposed to coach and they're supposed to officiate. Sometimes you do get those calls."

In the night cap at Honeoye Falls-Lima, Bishop Kearney dominated Le Roy, but with a 10-8 record.

Kearney and Notre Dame could match up well. Both teams have five players who scored at least 100 points on the season and could match up on height.

Both teams are coming off State Championship seasons so they both have big game experience.

"All of our big games in past, all of our big elba games, this game today, it gets you ready for the big stage," Call said.

Before we knew for sure Kearney would be Saturday's opponent, Call said she was ready to face whoever came out on top of the semi-final game.

"Saturday's another basketball game," Call said. "It's senior year, so it's pretty emotional., but we're just going to play. it's a faceless opponent. Hopefully we come out with a patch."

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Wednesday, February 26, 2014 at 11:27 am

Defense and big game by Fagan carry Blue Devils past Newark in Section V playoff game

post by Howard Owens in basketball, batavia, high school sports, sports

Memo to Brian Miller, head coach of the Geneva Panthers: If you want to beat Batavia in Sunday's Section V Class A2 Finals, you better figure out how to stop Justice Fagan and Jeff Redband.

Good luck with that.

Teams have been trying all year and stopping the Blue Devil's two standouts just gets harder and harder.

The Newark Reds tried Tuesday night at the Blue Cross Arena in Rochester and found themselves on the losing end of Fagan's biggest game of the year.

The senior captain scored 28 points as the Blue Devils punched their ticket for the finals with a 45-41 win over the #2 seed.

And by all accounts, Redband had an off night, with defenders constantly in his face, but he still managed 15 points.

"That's been happening all year (tight defensive coverage)," Redband said. "I didn't do the best with it this game. We had plays to get me the ball, I just wasn't making shots. I'll make them other games. We rode Justice because he was having the greatest game of his season tonight."

Fagan just took the game over in the closing minutes and with under two minutes left, the Blue Devils grabbed the lead and the Reds' fate seemed sealed.

As important as Fagan's big game was, it was really Batavia's defense that secured the victory.

Head Coach Buddy Brasky teaches his players, hold the opponent to less than 52 points and you will always have a chance to win.

The Blue Devils opened sectional play with a 56-37 win over Honeoye Falls-Lima three days ago, and against a Reds team that has put at least 60 points on the board nine times this season, Batavia pinned Newark down at only 41, holding them to 13 in the second half.

Brasky's team switched to a 3-2 zone defense and the Reds never got a handle on how to penetrate it.

"We've hardly played a 3-2 all year," Brasky said. "They (the Blue Devils) just picked it up on the fly and executed it well."

With the Reds left with few inside scoring opportunities, it also meant there were fewer opportunities for Batavia to draw fouls.

In the closing minute and a half, Batavia was shooting bonus free throws and had only committed four second-half fouls themselves. 

"We went to the zone and they didn't attacked it," Brasky said. "There was a lot of pass on the perimeter. They stopped going to the basket, so there wasn't a lot of opportunity for us to foul. They took a lot of outside shots. That's what the zone forced them to do. Justice started attacking. Jeff started attacking. We were going to the basket where they stopped going to the basket. That's the foul differential right there."

Redband went to the line twice and hit all four shots, while neither late-game foul by Batavia resulted in free throws for the Reds and Fagan made a crucial free throw to take away any hope of a three-pointer to tie the game.

"Jeff and Justice are 70-, 80-percent foul shooters," Brasky said. "They come to the school every morning before class and shoot 50 free throws. Every morning. When we've got them at the foul line at the end of games, I'm very confident."

The foul differential was a huge strategic advantage, especially when Batavia could afford another foul with 4.5 seconds left. In that situation, a quick three-pointer would have given Newark a slim hope for a steal and another score. Instead, two seconds were lost and Newark had to inbound the ball again. A desperation three missed the basket wide and short by three feet and went out of bounds with 0.8 seconds left. A simple Batavia inbound and the game was over.

Brasky said Fagan's confidence has been soaring since a big game against Lockport on Senior Night, and Tuesday night, he just took the team on his back and carried it to victory.

Fagan said that's his job.

"I'm the senior captain," Fagan said. "I didn't want this to be my last game of the year, or ever, actually. I just wanted to win this game. I kind of figured I needed to take over a little bit through the game because we were struggling a little bit offensively. Somebody's got to take over."

The only other Blue Devil to score against the Reds (who don't wear red, but maroon) was Jerret Lasket, who had two points.

A low-scoring affair is exactly the kind of game the Blue Devils like to play -- battle for 30 minutes and close it out at the end.

"In our games, we never do get down by a lot, usually, because we play good defense," Brasky said. "We've been in close games all year, so they have confidence in close games."

For Newark, Jaymee Rosser had 17 points. Tyler Collins, an outside shooting threat, tried, but was 1-6 from beyond the arc and was held to 10 points. Rosser was the top rebounder for the game with nine.

For Redband, Tuesday's visit to Blue Cross was his first since a season ago when he sent his team to the State's Final Four with a three-point buzzer beater.

The junior guard walked out to the same spot during warm ups and admitted taking a moment to reflect on the shot and later hit a practice shot from the same spot. He said he likes playing in the big gym.

"I'm comfortable playing here," Redband said. "With a lot of the new people, I just said it's a normal game. It doesn't matter that it's in this big stadium. You've just got to play basketball."

He also wasn't surprised his team is about to play for the Class A2 championship. The Blue Devils are where they're supposed to be.

"We've beat good teams all year so we knew all year we could be right here at sectionals in the finals," Redband said.

Game time Sunday at Blue Cross is 5 p.m.

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Wednesday, February 26, 2014 at 10:29 am

Pembroke advances to first title game since '87

post by Nick Sabato in basketball, high school sports, pembroke, sports

It has been a long time since Pembroke was a factor in Section V girls basketball.

The Lady Dragons can now say that they are, as they punched their ticket to the Class C2 finals for the first time since 1987 after defeating Clyde-Savannah, 45-39.

“We’ve put in a lot of time these last four years,” said Pembroke Head Coach Mike Wilson. “We’ve spent a lot of long hours in the gym. For a group of kids to step up and play the way they are playing right now is extremely special.”

One of the biggest reasons for Pembroke’s success is senior Breanna Johnson, the school’s all-time leader in points, rebounds, assists and steals.

Johnson came out fast, scoring 16 of the Lady Dragons’ 23 points in the first half for a seven-point lead at the break.

However, Clyde-Savannah threw a wrench into the plan, as they switched from a man-to-man defense to a zone in the second half, causing Pembroke to go cold in the third quarter.

Pembroke would only manage to connect on one shot from the field in the frame, and the Lady Eagles would hold Johnson without a point in the third.

“We didn’t really move the ball as much as we should have,” Johnson said. “We weren’t cutting and we weren’t getting to the basket.”

While Johnson was unable to get anything going, Clyde-Savannah was taking it to the Dragons on the glass, out-rebounding them 38-25 for the game.

In particular, Ally Fenton had a monster game for the Lady Eagles taking advantage of Pembroke’s 2-3 zone, scoring 17 points and grabbing 15 rebounds (six offensive).

“We wanted to keep our girls out of foul trouble,” Wilson said. “We tend to play too aggressive in man-to-man and zone preserves our players.”

Leading just 27-24 going into the fourth quarter, Johnson came back to life. She made her first basket of the second half with on a three-pointer with just 1:58 left in the game.

In total, she scored 12 points in the last frame, racking up nine from the foul line to guarantee the victory.

“To have a kid like [her] play as well as she is,” continued Wilson. “Mel Taylor and Kelsey Bezon get a lot of press in the league, and they deserve it, but tonight Breanna Johnson showed that she deserves to be in the conversation. She does everything she can to help the team.”

Clyde-Savannah (12-6) was unable to answer the call, and the Lady Dragons escaped with the win.

Pembroke (15-5) already garnered their first sectional win since 2007, and now they return to the sectional finals for the first time in 27 years. The school has never won a sectional championship in girls basketball.

The Lady Dragons will take on top-seeded Lyons on Saturday at Rush-Henrietta High School. Tip-off will be 5 p.m.

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