February 17, 2012
Groton gangs up to hold off Edison
Takes title with four players in double figures
Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Bryan Chaffee (left) of Groton looks on as teammate Damian Young (21) grabs the ball away from Skyler Wilkens (21) of Edison Thursday at TC3. Groton won the IAC Small School Championship, 63-58.
DRYDEN — With the final outcome still in the balance, Groton Central senior guard Brett Conger had all the pressure on him.
With 13.3 seconds remaining and the Indians leading 61-58, Conger calmly converted both ends of a one-and-one at the foul line to seal the 63-58 victory and give Groton boys an exciting 63-58 win over Elmira Height Edison to claim the overall Interscholastic Athletic Conference Small School Championship.
With the title game victory at Tompkins Cortland Community College, the Indians improve to 16-1 overall and now head into the Section 4 Class C Tournament as the number one seed. The Spartans fall to 9-9 and enter the Class C tournament as the 11th seed.
Conger finished the night with 14 points and was one of four Groton players in double figures. Taj McKnight was the biggest star of the night as his double-double of 16 points and 11 rebounds gave the Indians an important inside presence. Michael Grieger chipped in with 15 points and six rebounds while Keegan Donovan netted 10 points for the Indians.
“We like to think we have a deep team,” Conger said. “A lot of guys stepped up. It was good to get this win. We worked on our conditioning all week so the bigger court wasn’t a factor.
“Edison was a tough team,” he added. “They played hard, but it was nice that we came out with a win. I’m excited and the team is excited about sectionals now.”
“It was a tough night. It wasn’t just me, it was a team win.,” McKnight said.
“Everyone contributed,” he continued. “Mike Grieger stepped up, Brett Conger stepped up, Keegan did his part. All the guys got us this title. Coach (John) Filzen pushed us this week to get ready for the bigger court.”
Groton jumped out to a 5-0 lead on an offensive putback by Grieger and a 3-pointer by Conger. A trey by Grieger and a driving lay-up by Donovan put Groton in front 14-5 with 2:52 left in the first quarter and the Indians looked to have things well in hand.
Edison battled before the quarter ended. Kyle Michaud grabbed an offensive rebound and scored to pull the Spartans to within 15-11 with 1:17 left in the quarter before a Damian Young lay-in allowed Groton to lead 17-11 after one quarter was completed.
Groton started fast in the second quarter. After 3-pointers by Grieger and Donovan, the Indians led 23-15 three minutes into the quarter. Groton maintained a cushion until Edison closed out the quarter with a 7-2 run to knot the score at 32-32.
Tyler Ungerland drained a 3-pointer with 51 seconds left in the half to cut the Groton lead to 32-30. With 38 seconds showing, Skyler Wilkins made two free throws to even the score at 32-32.
Groton ran the clock down for a final shot. Donovan’s 3-point try was blocked by Ben Georgia and the half ended in a deadlock.
In the third quarter, McKnight carried the Indians on his back. The junior guard scored 10 of his team’s 15 points, but Edison stayed close the entire time. McKnight broke the fourth tie of the quarter with an offensive putback for a 47-45 Groton lead with 1:38 left in the quarter. Michaud made on of two free throws the narrow the gap to 47-46 with one quarter to go.
Wilkins gave the Spartans to lead to start the quarter, but a trey by Conger put the Indians on top 50-48. Michaud tied the game at 50-50 with two free throws before Groton took the lead for good and a Donovan 3-pointer from the top of the key. McKnight added a free throw before Austin Merritt made both ends of a one-and-one as the Spartans pulled to within 54-52 with 5:38 to play. That’s the closest Edison would get the rest of the game.
Greiger knocked down a 3-pointer from the wing as Groton lead 57-52 with 5:13 left. Georgia made two charity tosses with 3;13 showing as the Indians’ advantage slipped to 59-56. McKnight found a seam and drove to the bucket for two points and a 61-56 Groton lead. Wilkins cut the deficit to 61-58 with 1:44 remaining.
Both teams had scoring chances, but neither could connect as time ticked away. Conger’s pressure-packed free throws capped a great title game.
“Four guys in double figures and clutch free throws down the stretch, it all helped us win,” Filzen said. “Keegan does get a lot of the publicity, but this is a team. We have a bunch of guys who can play. Keegan struggled tonight, but Michael, Brett, Taj all stepped up. Bryan Chaffee gave us some great leadership.
“It’s not a one-man team,” he continued. “The guys off the bench contributed, Damian Young got some big first-half points for us. Kyle Shaw, Mike Medina, Brandon Pollack and Chris Graham all know their roles. They love their roles and did their thing to help us win.”
“Rebounding hurts us tonight,” Edison coach Lenny Smith said. “Groton got three straight offensive rebounds in one possession early in that third quarter and eventually got some free throws from it. That’s something we will work on before sectionals.
“Kyle has been my best player all season long,” he added. “He is an all-out hustler. He gets offensive rebounds, he gets defensive rebounds. I am so proud of how he works.”
Michaud finished with 20 points and nine rebounds to lead the Spartans. Wilkins added 15 points and Georgia netted 11 points.
“We still have some work to do,” Filzen said of heading into sectionals.. “We looked good at times, but we also looked bad at times. We had some mental mistakes and lack of communication. Those are things we need to shore up.”
Groton will begin sectional play Tuesday by hosting 16th-seed Unadilla Valley at 7 p.m.
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