March 2, 2013
Lions chase title at Dome
Cincy faces NYM in Class D final
SYRACUSE — Experience and enthusiasm will collide Sunday when the fourth-seeded Cincinnatus Central boys’ basketball team meets No. 2 New York Mills in the Section 3 Class D championship game at the Carrier Dome in a 12:30 p.m. start.
The Red Lions come in at 16-3 and ranked 11th in the state in Class D after having disposed of rival and top-seeded McGraw 63-47 last Sunday in the second game of the D semifinals doubleheader at Onondaga CC’s Allyn Hall Gymnasium.
The Eagles had taken both Central Counties League regular season contests from Cincy en route to claiming the league crown with a 12-0 mark, and the loss ended their season at 18-2.
Sunday’s first Class D semifinal saw the perennially powerful Marauders, ranked eighth in the state, improve to 18-3 with a 56-43 win over third-seeded Faith Heritage to earn their fifth straight sectional championship appearance. It marked the 499th win in Mike Adey’s 32-year coaching career against 162 losses, spanning stints at Rome Catholic, New Hartford and the last 15 seasons with New York Mills. He has guided New York Mills to five sectional Class D crowns and a 2011 state championship, and has a career record as the Marauders’ coach of 275-65.
New York Mills, which beat Cincy 65-50 in last year’s D-1 semifinals, will be the tallest team the Red Lions have seen all season. The Marauders have a front line of 6-foot-3 senior Jacob Kehrli, 6-4 senior Cody Mariotti and 6-5 junior Zach Vennaro. Junior guard Nick Comenale is the leading scorer at 20.7 points per game.
“We’ve used losing to them last year as a little motivation,” said Red Lions coach Jim Halstrom, whose team got to this year’s semifinals by beating No. 13 Brookfield 53-28 in the first round and ousting No. 5 Lyme 44-33 in the quarterfinals. “Comenale killed us in that game, with nine points in the second quarter when we were concerned with their big man, Matt Welch (since graduated). We’re going to do our best to draw their big men away from the basket when we’ve got the ball.
“They’re more used to being in this situation, and that, as well as the Dome, will be a factor,” he added.”My senior year, 1984, we played in the Class D final at the Broome County Arena, and the depth perception is so different in big buildings. Hopefully we can figure it out by the time we’re done warming up.”
The game Halstrom referred to, a 68-54 win over Edmeston under coach John Rutan, capped Cincy’s last sectional championship season. In attempting to make some school history, Halstrom takes a number of positives away from last weekend’s win over McGraw.
“We still think McGraw was the class of our section going in,” he said. “I’m not saying this game won’t be difficult, but that one was tough. Other than talking about the things we did well, we’ve forgotten about that game and are preparing for New York Mills. We lost to Oriskany in the finals of the Fabius Christmas Tournament (46-35),” he said, “and they beat New York Mills this season. So did Poland.
“I prefer to play an aggressive zone defense, but when we do we don’t score points. Man-to-man turns into a faster pace. We used it for all but two possessions the last game, and we’ll go with it from now on.”
New York Mills was the Class D-1 sectional champion last season and lost to D-2 winner Sackets Harbor 62-61 for the overall sectional crown before the Patriots went on to win the state championship. That in itself is extra incentive for his squad, but Adey, who said he won’t talk about his impending milestone until it’s reached, noted that the Marauders realize that the Red Lions will be a formidable foe.
“I think that Cincinnatus is a good team, very well-coached, which in Class D is an advantage,” he said. “They certainly deserved to win their semifinal game against a team that had already beaten them twice. They’re not real big, but they’re scrappy. They use their size very well and are very aggressive. We have to be able to play the way we play and not let them take over. They’re physical on defense, but we play a lot of teams like that.
“Being back in the Dome and having players with championship-game experience can’t hurt, but we’ve got new players, too. Once you get going, kids forget where they’re playing,” he added. “The kids from both teams will remember this all their lives. They see the place on TV, and now they’re playing — and we’re coaching — there. Last year Syracuse had played Louisville the day before our game, and we were in the visitors’ locker room. There was a play still on the board that (Cardinals coach) Rick Pitino had drawn. I got goose bumps.”
After Comenale, Mariotti is next in scoring for Mills with 11.2 points per game, followed by senior guard Jon Ross at 7.0. Mariotti and Kehrli each pull down 6.7 rebounds per contest, Vennaro next at 5.0. Ross is the assists leader with 61 (2.9 a game), and Comenale has come up with a team-high 53 steals (3.1 a game in 17 games) this season.
“We’re not a one-man team,” Adey said. “If an opponent tries to stop Comenale, other players can score. Our three bigs are playing some of their best ball of the season, sharing the ball and rebounding. That will definitely help; it’s been one of our strengths the last couple of weeks.”
Cincinnatus is led in scoring by junior guard-forward Shea Feehan’s 11.3 points per game, with senior guard Mickey Halstrom (the coach’s second cousin) next at 8.1 and senior forward-center Nick Lindley at 6.2. Lindley is both the leading rebounder with 6.8 a game — to Feehan’s 5.8 — and the top shot-blocker with 25. Feehan is the assists leader with 3.4 a contest to 3.1 for senior guard Nick Peri, who also leads the Red Lions in steals with 2.5 a contest and 3-pointers with 21.
“This team has had great chemistry all year long,” Coach Halstrom said. “They’re unselfish almost to a fault and get along well. They wanted to win the Central Counties League for the second straight year, and losing to McGraw the second time hurt them, and me, pretty bad.
“The boys knew they had to reset their goals, knew looking ahead to sectionals that they could play with anybody, and knew that McGraw was there waiting.”
Now, so is a date in the Dome.
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