March 3, 2010
Groton’s finally off to the Arena
Stops Sidney 62-46 to reach Class C title game
Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Josh Senter of Groton drives the lane through three Sidney defenders during Tuesday’s Section 4 Class C semifinal at Court Gym. Groton moved on to the finals with a 62-46 victory.
GROTON — John Filzen has been coaching varsity basketball at Groton Central for 25 years.
Over than span he has always gone to the Broome County Veterans Memorial Arena to watch the Section 4 finals, but as a spectator the previous 24 times. Now his 25th trip there will be as the coach of a Class C finalist.
Sophomore guard Keegan Donovan scored 25 points, burying a handful of first-half 3-pointers before going a perfect 10-for-10 at the free throw line in the second half, as second-seeded Groton eliminated sixth-seed Sidney 62-46 in front of a packed Richard Court Gymnasium crowd Tuesday.
Groton (15-3 overall) will meet Interscholastic Athletic Conference Northeast Small School rival and Overall Small School champion Moravia (18-2) in the Class C title game, a 6:45 p.m. start at the Arena. Moravia was a 61-44 winner over fifth-seed Spencer-Van Etten (15-5) in last night’s other semifinal contest.
“It is so hard to get there,” Filzen said. “Section 4 basketball is very competitive. We’ve been close a number of times, but never made the final step. The coaches work hard all year round. The players work hard. It finally all came together.
“I have also watched the finals from the stands,” he added. “It feels good to finally be there as a coach, but as much as I am happy for myself, it is still all about the kids. This is their moment.”
It was a moment that might have been a serious trouble from the start with the team’s leading scorer, senior Ethan Tilebein, home with the flu.
Step up Mr. Donovan.
He found his shooting touch in the first half from the field and showed all the maturity of a senior veteran in the second half at the free throw line. Donovan was 8-for-8 from the charity stripe in the final three minutes. Factor in perfect 2-for-2 efforts from junior Isiah Young, who started in place of Tilebein, along with senior Josh Senter and the Indians were 12-for-12 in that three minute stretch.
“Guys had to step up with Ethan out,” Donovan said. “Everyone did. I was fortunate to do my part, but so did Isiah, Nick, Josh, Allen (Gallow) and all the guys off the bench. It was a team effort.”
“Keegan played huge,” Filzen said. “I’ve been waiting for him to have a break-out game. He was playing with confidence tonight. He had a great floor game for us.
“He has had the best point guard I have ever had as a coach helping him this season,” Filzen added in reference to assistant coach Joey Volpicelli working with Donovan all season.
Even Sidney coach Mike Brazee was impressed with Donovan’s effort.
“He certainly did not play like a sophomore tonight,” Brazee said. “We knew about Tilebein, Senter and Conway. Number 23 (Donovan) was not considered a big threat for them. He really did a great job.”
GROTON CONTROLLED the offensive boards in the first quarter. It was second and third chances that gave the Indians an 11-2 lead five minutes in.
Donovan buried a trey from the corner to start things just 37 seconds into the semifinal contest. Senter hit a short jumper. Conway added a trey from the right elbow and then hit from the corner as well for an 11-2 advantage with 3:42 left in the quarter.
Sidney (16-5) settled down and closed out the period with its own 11-2 run. Dylan Umbra started the run with a driving lay-up. Warriors’ leading scorer Aaron Wood (17 points) scored on a drive to the bucket while being fouled and made the free throw. Tanner Westcott (14 points) added two lay-ins from lob passes into the paint which tied the score at 11-11 with 1:20 left in the quarter.
Groton appeared to take a 13-11 lead at the end of the quarter as Nick Coombs converted a lay-up opportunity with 59 seconds left, but Wood connected with an amazing buzzer-beating heave just inside the half-court stripe to give the Warriors a 14-13 lead.
Young opened the second quarter with his first 3-pointer as Groton took a 16-14 lead, but Wood tied it with a driving lay-up.
Behind a 3-point barrage, the Indians broke the game open with a 13-2 run. After Young made one-of-two free throws, Donovan, Senter, Conway and Donovan all connected from behind the arc as Groton built a 29-18 cushion.
Two easy lay-up but Sidney trimmed the deficit to seven points with 1:33 to go, but Donovan struck twice more. First from the right wing with 51 seconds remaining and again with 2.1 ticks left on a heave from the left corner for a 35-22 halftime advantage.
Sidney began the second half with a fury. Umbra drove the lane for two, Wood buried a right-wing 3-pointer and Westcott made two free throws as the Warriors closed to within 35-29 just 2:16 into the third quarter.
“We cut the lead in half quickly,” Brazee said. “We just could not maintain it. We missed some easy shots and we missed a number of free throws that really hurt us.”
DONOVAN STOPPED the run with two foul shots and Conway scored on a lay-up to take the lead back to 10 points one minute later. The Indians kept control and led 44-35 heading into the fourth quarter.
Groton had trouble scoring from the field in the second half, but Young hit a 3-pointer and Senter made a confidence-boosting trey with 3:50 to go to give the Indians a 50-38 lead.
“Coach said to keep shooting,” Senter said. “I have been struggling to score lately. That’s the only way to break out of the slump to to keep shooting. I picked my spots because I didn’t want to hurt the team’s chances of winning too much, but I shot enough to feel like I might be coming out of my slump.”
The rest of the Indian points came from the free throw line while the defense kept the visiting Warriors from doing much either.
Young finished with nine points and 10 rebounds in his first varsity start. Senter netted 12 points and dished out four assists. Conway had 11 points and six boards while Allen Gallow added six rebounds and four assists while scoring three points. Gallow drew post-game praise from Filzen as well.
“Allen did a nice job overall on number 44 (Westcott),” Filzen said. “I have been hard on Allen and maybe expect an awful lot from him. He is a very good defensive player and he is very important to our success. He had a solid game tonight and does a lot of things that don’t always show up in the scorebook.
“Isiah is another guy who’s really improved,” he continued. “He has been in the weight room a lot and he keeps getting stronger. He has been growing a dominant player and I didn’t have any second thoughts about him starting tonight for Ethan.”
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