January 8, 2011
Devils hold off Groton
Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Ryan Nesbitt (25) of Moravia leaps to block the shot of Groton’s Keegan Donovan (23), who takes a hand across the face from Moravia’s Lee Wakefield (22) for a foul during Friday’s IAC first-place battle.
GROTON – With all the poise of a defending Section 4 basketball champion, Moravia Central boys used a 10-0 run in the first quarter to take a lead that the Blue Devils would never surrender the rest of this crucial contest.
The Blue Devils controlled the first half, but needed some clutch shooting in the closing minutes to preserve a 58-51 Interscholastic Athletic Conference North Small School Division victory over host Groton Central in Richard Court Gymnasium showdown Friday night.
The victory keeps Moravia unbeaten in division at 8-0 and 9-0 overall through the first round of IAC play. The Blue Devils hold a two-game lead in the standings over Groton, the Indians falling to 6-2 in league and overall play.
“It really was just another classic battle between to good teams,” Moravia coach Todd Mulvaney said. “We knew it would be struggle coming in here. Groton does some nice things offensively. We hit some shots at critical times tonight so we ended up with more points.”
Blue Devil senior Ryan Nesbitt’s shooting touch helped his team get the quick start. Nesbitt hit a pair of 3-pointers in the 10-0 run after Keegan Donovan had put Groton in front 3-2 with a trey from the left elbow. A driving lay-up by Lee Wakefield and the two Nesbitt bombs put Moravia on top 10-3 midway through the opening quarter. Another drive to the hoop by Dylan Powers made the score 12-3 to cap the early run.
Donovan scored on a driving lay-up to stop the Moravia run and Bryan Chaffee added a short jumper to pull Groton to within 12-7 with 2:36 left in the quarter. The teams traded points as Moravia enjoyed a 15-9 cushion after one quarter.
The Blue Devils continued to control play and force turnovers throughout the second quarter to enjoy a 28-18 halftime advantage. Nesbitt finished with 11 points in the first half for Moravia. Donovan set the pace for Groton with seven points.
“We did do a good job defensively in the first half,” Mulvaney said. “Groton made some adjustments to open the second half and we did not respond to our adjustments as well. They got right back into the game.”
“We just had some defensive lapses where everyone was not playing defense and Moravia took advantage of that,” Groton coach John Filzen explained. “We played much better team defense in the second half. We stopped the switches and double-teams and it helped us.”
GROTON OPENED the second half with an 8-0 run. Taj McKnight hit a 3-pointer, Nick Coombs scored on a baseline jumper and Donovan drained a trey from the top of the key as the Indians trailed 26-28 with 3:10 left in the quarter.
Dillon Langtry drove to the basket, made the shot and was fouled to finally get Moravia on the board in the third quarter. The senior made the free throw as well for a 31-26 Blue Devil lead for 2:42 showing. The quarter ended with Moravia on top 35-29.
Filzen urged his team on between the periods.
“We back in it,” he told the kids during the time-out. “You’re in your gym. Give 100 percent 100 percent of the time. It starts with the defense. We have them on the ropes.”
Nesbitt started the fourth quarter with a shot that hit the front rim, but bounced true and through the cylinder for a 37-29 lead, but Groton roared back. McKnight hit a jump shot and Donovan buried a 3-pointer as Groton closed to with 37-33 in the opening minute.
By the midway point of the final quarter, Moravia was still holding a 47-40 lead. Moravia freshman Chandler Benson made two big turnaround jumpers from just outside the lane to help build that cushion.
Donovan hit his third trey with 2:52 remaining as the Indians were back within four points at 47-43. Back-to-back driving lay-ups by Powers and Dwyer put Moravia ahead 51-43, but Groton made another run. Two Donovan free throws and one charity toss by Coombs came after fouls committed by Wakefield and Langtry. It was the fifth foul for each so they went to the bench with 11 and seven points respectively.
When Donovan connected for two more points, Groton had close the deficit to 51-48 with 1:12 to go. The Indians twice turned the ball over and committed a foul after a missed shot on another occasion.
With 36 second to go, Powers made one of two free throw attempts. Nesbitt drained his final 3-pointer five seconds later after a Groton turnover for a 55-48 cushion with 31 second left. In the final 18 seconds, Powers made three-of-four foul shots to push the Blue Devils lead back to 10 points at 58-48. Donovan’s fourth 3-pointer gave him 22 points and made the final score 58-51 in favor of Moravia.
“GIVE OUR KIDS credit.” Mulvaney said. “They made the key plays when needed to increase the lead. The second half was a back-and-forth with each team making runs.
“Chandler is working so hard in practice,” he added. “He loves the game and is always in the gym working on something. He has a great attitude and comes to work every day. He did step-up and make some big shots for us.”
“Our inexperience showed tonight,” Filzen said. “I saw it in practice and hoped it wouldn’t happen in a game, but it did. We’ll learn from it and move forward.
“We did a much better job on Nesbitt in the second half,” he added. “We wore them down, got them in foul trouble, but a bunch of little things that we work on in practice weren’t executed in the game. We did play good defense and did a number of positive things. There were a few breakdowns, some mistakes rebounding and some hesitancies on offense.That hurts us, but our focus has been more on defense this year and it was our defense that got us back in the game.”
Groton will look to start the second half on a positive note Tuesday, traveling to face Dryden. The JVs tip-off at 6 p.m. with the varsity game to follow.
MORAVIA JVs overcame a 22-16 halftime deficit to score 17 third-quarter points and go on the a 44-40 triumph. Jacob Betts led the Junior Devils with 13 points. Greg Horner added 12 points.
Zeke Wright scored 22 of his team’s 40 points. Donny Evener added nine points.
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