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February 12, 2007

 

Nichols shoots down St. John’s

Career-best 37 points lifts SU to 76-74 win

Orange

Associated Press/Kevin Rivoli
Syracuse’s Demetris Nichols scored 37 points Sunday to beat St. John’s 76-74 at the Carrier Dome.

By JOHN KEKIS
AP Sports Writer

SYRACUSE — St. John’s sent Syracuse on its recent tailspin three weeks ago with a late rally. Demetris Nichols was happy to return the favor.
Nichols scored a career-high 37 points — 26 in the second half — and matched his career best with 10 rebounds, leading the Orange past the Red Storm 76-74 on Sunday.
Syracuse (17-8, 6-5 Big East) had lost three of four since that 64-60 loss at St. John’s (14-11, 5-7) to fall into the middle of the Big East standings.
This victory moved Syracuse into a tie for sixth in the conference with Notre Dame and only five games left in the regular season, the next one Wednesday night at South Florida.
“This win was very important for us,” said Nichols, who also had a career-high seven 3-pointers and shot 14-for-24 from the field. “These next couple of games, we’ve got to win. We’ve got to continue to just keep on playing hard, play the whole game.”
For a change, the Orange did that on Sunday and won a critical contest.
“We hung in there and made a couple of more plays than they did and gritted it out. It came down to that,” Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim said. “The whole game we did the best job we did all year of keeping our composure. We kept sticking to what we were doing, even when they took the lead.”
Syracuse collapsed in the final seven weeks of last season, losing nine of its last 13 games, and seemed destined to miss the NCAA tournament for only the sixth time since Boeheim took over in 1976. Instead, the Orange, behind the heroics of former guard Gerry McNamara, won the Big East tournament to qualify for the NCAAs.
Another loss to St. John’s might have been difficult to overcome.
“They beat us a couple of weeks ago and we shouldn’t have lost that game,” Nichols said. “We were on a losing streak, so we knew we had to step it up.”
St. John’s held a 34-31 halftime lead, and after Terrence Roberts was called for goaltending on the first possession of the second half, Nichols, the leading scorer in the Big East, went on one of his amazing scoring sprees. He hit three 3-pointers and netted 19 points in just over eight minutes, his fadeaway jumper along the baseline over Eugene Lawrence putting the Orange up 53-50 at 11:39.
“Nichols was absolutely unbelievable,” said St. John’s head coach Norm Roberts, in his third season with the Red Storm, who remain in good position to qualify for the Big East tournament for the first time since 2003. “Nichols got in a zone, and the way he shot it, it didn’t matter who was guarding him.”
Early in the season, Nichols outscored Colgate 24-22 in the second half despite sitting the last seven minutes of the game, and he also had 15 straight in a win over Villanova last month.
Undeterred by Nichols’ heroics, Lamont Hamilton and Lawrence hit consecutive 3s to give St. John’s a 63-62 lead with 5:02 remaining. But Darryl Watkins converted two free throws and Nichols made two more foul shots before hitting his final 3 of the game, putting Syracuse ahead for good, 69-63, with 3:32 left.
“We found him, and he had as good a shooting game as I’ve seen in here under good defensive pressure,” Boeheim said. “He made shots that were incredibly hard to make.”
The next shot — Syracuse’s last of the game — was another fadeaway jumper, this one over the outstretched arms of Anthony Mason along the baseline that rattled in and gave Syracuse a 71-65 lead with 2:37 remaining.
“I really can’t explain it,” Nichols said. “When I feel like I’m in my zone, I don’t think anybody can stop me.”
The Red Storm, who beat Syracuse at Madison Square Garden on two 3-pointers by Avery Patterson in the final 68 seconds, rallied again. Mason came back with a 3 from the right corner with 49 seconds to go to move St. John’s back within 71-68.
“We took that blow and came right back with a blow of our own,” said Mason, who led the Red Storm with 21 points.
And when Syracuse faltered at the foul line — the Orange missed six straight in the final three minutes, the final two by Josh Wright with 44 seconds left — it seemed destined for another collapse.
But Watkins, who finished with 11 points, eight rebounds, six blocks and four steals, grabbed the offensive board after Wright’s second miss and made two more free throws. Eric Devendorf and Wright then combined to make three more foul shots to secure the victory.
“We need to improve on anything that’s making us lose,” said Watkins, who played just 10 minutes before fouling out of Monday night’s loss at Connecticut, netting just four points. “We were definitely in desperation at the end.”

 


Rockets roll on to semis

At this stage of the volleyball season, teams want to perform at their best.
DeRuyter Central girls were certainly that while responding to a Section 3 Class D quarterfinal round challenge on Saturday, as the fifth seeds knocked off fourth seeded host Oppenheim-Ephrata in a 25-20, 25-20, 24-26, 25-17 battle.
The Central Counties League regular season champions are now a win away from returning the Class D tournament finals, DeRuyter tentatively scheduled to visit top seed Faith Heritage at 6 p.m. Tuesday in Syracuse.
“We just all-around played really well,” said DeRuyter coach Gary Burdick, his Rockets now 15-6 on the season. “It was probably one of our better matches, if not our best match, of the season. You want to play your best at the end of the year.”
Faith Heritage (15-3) advanced with a 25-19, 25-22, 22-25, 25-16 victory over Living Word in another Saturday quarterfinal round match.
Two other Central Counties League squads were knocked off, including Cincinnatus. The Red Lions lost at second seed New York Mills 25-16, 25-13, 25-15 while Brookfield fell to third seed Hamilton 25-8, 25-23, 25-16.
Hamilton visits defending champion New York Mills Tuesday in the other semifinal match-up.
DeRuyter 3, Oppenheim-Ephrata 1: A little experience went a long ways as the Rockets prevailed in this tough outing, facing a team it had met earlier this season as the CCL Tournament.
“I think it helps a lot. We’ve got some kids who have been on the team two years, three years, four years, and down the stretch it makes a difference,” said Coach Burdick of his team being accustomed to the pressure of post-season play.
His prime example was the third game, which saw DeRuyter trail by seven points in the early going only to rally before Oppenheim-Ephrata (13-7) prevailed.
“I know we didn’t come back and win it, be we came back and almost won it,” said Burdick. “We stayed composed, kept our heads and just kept playing.”
The Rockets then gradually pulled away in the fourth game to finish the job and earn a spot in the semifinals.
Kristi Custer and Jen Cizenski orchestrated the offense for DeRuyter, both with 14 assists. Custer had 11 kills and five blocks at the net, Brandi Henri nine kills and Aubrie Schelah six kills. Helping out with four kills apiece were Cizenski, Polly Gallerani and Chelsea Way.
The Rockets also served well, Custer with four aces, Schelah three aces and Cizenski a pair of aces. Schelah was also error-free hitting throughout the match.

 

 

Season continues for Trojans’ foursome

VERNON — While no Homer Central wrestlers reached the championship finals, the Trojans posted a fifth-place team finish at the Section 3 Class B Tournament Saturday at Vernon-Verona-Sherrill High School.
Homer scored 100.5 team points and will send four grapplers to the Division II Tournament this Sunday at the Utica Auditorium. Alex McCoy placed third at 96 pounds, along with Zak Quireelo at 119 pounds, to earn spots in the Division II field. Trojans Mark Brenchley (152) and Mike DiOrio (275) also advance after placing fourth.
Phoenix won the team title with 234 points with Holland Patent (215.5) and South Jefferson (172.5) rounding out the top three.
“The kids finished strong,” said Homer coach Jeff Lewis. “I was pleased overall that we placed fifth as a team. It was good to have four kids qualify for the Division II Tournament. I was hoping that a couple of more guys might qualify, but it did not happen.”
McCoy lost to 96-pound champion Kyle Crisafulli from Phoenix in the semifinal round via pin in 30 seconds, but the Trojan freshman bounced back to stick Steve Goetzman of Skaneateles at the 2:09 mark in the consolation finals to earn the bronze medal. McCoy was 3-1 for the day.
Quirello also went 3-1 with a pair of pins, including a 46-second pin of Rob Kessler from Holland Patent to claim third place. Quirello is 13-3 since stepping into the varsity line-up.
DiOrio lost to runner-up Jeremy Doxstader of Holland Patent by a 5-4 decision in the semifinals. In the consolation final, the Trojan senior lost a 3-1 decision to Chris Pike from Sherburne-Earlville. DiOrio finished the day with a 2-2 record and improved his season record to 25-8, the only Trojan to reach 25 wins this season.
Brenchley lost in the quarterfinal round and needed to work a little harder to reach the consolation final where the senior was pinned by Wheeler Brunschmid of Sherburne-Earlville in 2:24. Brenchley went 3-2 to improve to 21-14.
Six other Homer wrestlers did place in the top-six at the end of the day. Nate Crawford (125, 2-2 record), Ben Chace (135, 2-2) and Elijah Vaber (189, 3-2) all placed fifth while sixth-place honors went to Ryan Sparrow (103, 0-3), Ben McBride (112, 1-3) and Saxson Sprouse (130, 2-3).
“Saxson really wrestled tough all day long,” said Lewis. “He just got caught a couple of times while really pounding guys and wound up getting beat. He will really be one of our studs next year. I was really hoping that he would advance and I thought Nate would move on to Utica.”