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March 2, 2009

 

Groton boys take next step

By TOM VARTANIAN
Staff Writer

GROTON — It was everything high school basketball is about Saturday night inside a nearly-packed Richard Court Gymnasium — a close game for 28 of the 32 minutes, loud cheering sections for both teams and, finally, a win for the home team.
Groton Central boys led just 4:46 of the first 32-plus minutes of this Section 4 Class C quarterfinal contest, but the top-seeds were in front over the final 5:28 after junior Brandon Peckham scored the bucket off a feed from senior Peter Jackson that put the Indians in front to stay at 54-53. Josh Senter (18 points) buried a 3-pointer 48 seconds later for the 57-53 cushion as Groton (17-3) pulled away for the 67-57 win over a determined eighth-seed from Sidney (14-9).
One more basket by Peckham (11 points), a trey by Nick Conway (11 points) and 5-for-8 foul-shooting by Jackson, who scored a game-high 22 points behind 12-of-18 shooting from the charity stripe, moved Groton into the semifinals.
The Indians will host fourth-seed Oxford (19-3) Wednesday night at 7 p.m. while sixth-seed Odessa-Montour (16-6) travels to second-seed Moravia (14-5) for the other Class C semifinal. The Blackhawks defeated fifth-seed Walton 53-41 Saturday night while O-M upset third-seed Elmira Notre Dame 59-55. The Blue Devils posted a 70-57 win over seven-seed Delhi Friday night.
“Josh, Nick and all the big men stepped up big,” said a humble Jackson, the Indians’ captain. “It was just a great feeling to come out there and play with those guys. It is an amazing feeling to help lead them to a win. It is great to be a point-guard on this team.
“Last year we lost in the second round,” Jackson continued. “This year, we have just come out and done what we have to do. We all look forward to that next game, that next step.”
“Our fans were unbelievable tonight,” said Senter. “This was the best atmosphere I have ever played a game in.”
“This was a really big win for us,” added Peckham, who picked up his third foul early in the third quarter, but played solid basketball in the second half. “We know we will have to work a little harder each game now.”
“It was a real tight game most of the way,” said Sidney coach Mike Brazee. “Number 15 (Senter) got hot in the fourth quarter and we turned the ball over like three straight times and the game kind of got away from us. We got behind by five or six and could never really get it back after that.
“We have accomplished a lot this year,” Brazee added after his team started 0-4. “No one expected us to win our division title MAC (Midstate Athletic Conference), but we came back and snuck in the back door by winning on the other team’s home court. We were the number eight seed for sectionals. We came here and gave the number one seed a run. It is disappointing to lose, but we can hold our heads up and be proud of what we have accomplished this season.”
“Sidney is a real nice team,” said Groton coach John Filzen. “They have good coaching and I like their players. They have a great attitude and they really know how to compete. They played very good defense. I am happy that we did got the win. We beat a very good team.
“We have a senior point guard in Peter with four years of varsity experience and we kept the ball in his hands, “Filzen continued. “Josh and Nick made some incredible shots and key moments in the game. Brandon came off the bench and played incredible inside.”
Though Senter gave Groton a 3-0 lead in the first quarter, it was Sidney that appeared to enjoy a 14-10 lead with four seconds remaining in the opening stanza after a 3-point bomb by Aaron Wood (12 points). No one expected the wild finish to the quarter provided by Groton freshman Keegan Donovan, who came up from the JV squad for sectionals. Donovan launched a shot from just inside the half-court line and caught nothing but net to send the home team crowd into a frenzy as the Indians only trailed 14-13.
Conway gave Groton a 15-14 lead to start the second quarter, but Wood scored again as Sidney never trailed again in the first half, taking a 30-29 lead into the locker room.
The Warriors appeared to take control in the third quarter and enjoyed a 48-43 advantage, their biggest led of the game, with 49 second lefts in the quarter. Quinn Dorsey scored 15 points to lead the Sidney scoring attack, eight of those coming in the ensuing third quarter as the Indians were finding an open seam under the basket for easy uncontested buckets.
“We had seen a film of Groton and we saw there was a space in their defense,” said Brazee. “It was really there when Groton was in their zone defense and we knew we could attack that. We were quite effective there.”
Cue the home crowd for a rally! A driving lay-up by Conway, a Sidney turnover and a huge 3-pointer from the corner by Senter with 1.2 seconds left and the game was tied 48-48 heading into the fourth quarter.
Senter buried another trey to start the fourth quarter as Groton led 51-48, but with the Indians leading 52-50, Wood drove the lane, scored and was fouled. After the successful free throw, Sidney led 53-52 with 6:06 to go.
From that point on, Groton slowly took control. Peckham and Senter gave Groton the final lead change. Jackson made two free throws with 3:35 remaining to keep the home team in front 59-55. Peckham and Senter began controlling the boards as the Indians finally pulled away.
“It really was a great environment out there tonight,” said Groton coach John Filzen. “That was a nice reception our team got from the crowd. The community support was very moving. I was glad we were able to win and come back here again Wednesday.”
Peckham is one of the players who needed to pick-up that load like Conway, Austin Tompkins, Greg Murray, Alan Gallow and Charles Pratt did with Ethan Tilebein and Kyle Reed serving the final game of their school-imposed suspensions. Those two will return for the remaining games and will give the Indians a much stronger team.
“Peter has had to have some adjustments the past three weeks with to starting teammates,” said Filzen. “I’ve been hard on him because I know he can handle it and, this week, I have begun to see the old Peter coming back. I’m excited to see what he has in store for us now.
“We will need to see how we put this all together now with Ethan and Kyle coming back,” Filzen said. “I have a pretty good idea already. The big thing is we are adding two exceptional athletes to what have going right now. I’m excited about it.”