For Newfield senior guard Chris Byrd, the Interscholastic Athletic Conference Small School title game against Moravia can be summed up in one word: Nightmarish.
Not only did the dynamic 5-foot-9 Byrd not score, but his night came to an end in the third quarter when he was ejected after shoving a Moravia player. Unable to make anything happen offensively, a frustrated Byrd let his emotions get the better of him, and a split-second’s worth of poor judgement earned him an early shower.
“I don’t think the one kid that he ended up pushing was the main thing,” Newfield coach Duane Barrett said. “Actually, I think he (Byrd) really got in his own way, for real, by doing some of the things he was doing with the basketball. And then they were just able to capitalize on his frustration.”
Newfield lost 57-37 as Moravia senior center Chandler Benson led the Blue Devils with 20 points. Byrd and the third-seeded Trojans (16-2) get another crack at the second-seeded Blue Devils (18-1) at 7 Tuesday night in Moravia in the Section 4 Class C semifinals.
It’s an all-IAC affair in Class C, as the winner will face either fourth-seed Watkins Glen (14-5) or top seed Elmira Notre Dame (17-1) at 3:15 p.m. Saturday at the Broome County Veterans Memorial Arena.
The only other boys’ games Tuesday night are in Class D, where top-seeded Edmeston (18-0) meets fifth-seeded Southern Cayuga (9-8) in one semifinal, and second seed Charlotte Valley (18-1) hosts No. 6 South Kortright (15-4) in the other. Those winners will meet for the title at 8:15 p.m. Saturday at SUNY Oneonta.
Byrd, who averages around 12 points for the Trojans, was forced to sit out his team’s 60-45 sectional quarterfinal victory over Unadilla Valley on Friday due to his ejection in the IAC final on Feb. 15 at Tompkins Cortland Community College. Moravia coach Todd Mulvaney said Byrd’s frustration might have boiled over following a foul on Byrd in which a Blue Devil player scored and was headed to the foul line for a three-point play.
Mulvaney said one of his players ran to the player who scored, and that Byrd might have mistaken the second player’s excitement for taunting. Mulvaney said the teams have never had a problem and that he and Barrett have a good relationship.
“I didn’t expect anything like that to go down, because our programs have always gotten along,” Mulvaney said. “Duane and I are pretty good friends, we scrimmage each other every year, and the kids have gotten to know each other and they’ve always been good scrimmages. We’re two teams that go at each other, but it’s always been pretty clean. I was definitely surprised, and I don’t expect anything like that to happen this time.”
Barrett said his team was a little shaken after Byrd was tossed, but that it actually might have been a blessing in disguise. Barrett said Byrd “definitely doesn’t want to have two games like that,” and believes that his floor general will adjust and be better this time around.
“That game left a pretty bad taste in his mouth, so he’s going to be hungry,” Barrett said. “We’re going to leave him off the ball a little bit, give Moravia a different look. … We’re going to have him be more patient, relax and let the game come to him. Attack when the openings come, instead of going full bore right into the traps.”
Barrett said he and his team learned a few things about their opponent — including the 6-foot-7 Benson — they will be able to incorporate into the game plan.
“They like to try to speed you up into making mistakes,” he said. “If they can get you to turn over the basketball, that usually equates to points for them. Also, we learned little things about Benson — where he’s comfortable, where he likes to get the ball and better ways to defend him.
“We also learned about the things we can actually get done against their defense, if we’re patient enough to do it,” Barrett said. “The first part is just being patient, and after that, getting the ball to the middle, to the baseline and then attacking them in the interior rather than shooting jump shots all night.”
Newfield trailed, 30-11, at halftime of their first meeting, but played the Blue Devils even in the second half. Benson did sit the entire fourth quarter of that game, but the team’s ability to match Moravia shot-for-shot in the second half will give it confidence this time around, Barrett said.
“The kids are definitely aware that we’re capable of beating them, or at least compete with them possession for possession,” he said. “That’s no doubt in their mind. And we kind of sat back and calculated all the things we did wrong, and lost only by 20 after scoring only 11 in the first half, the kids have a sense that we can do this thing.”
Mulvaney said he was impressed with Newfield’s size, including 6-4 junior Devin Cooper, 6-5 senior center Alex Fuller and 6-5 junior reserve Dekhari Stewart.
“Their length is deceiving, they get to spots pretty quick,” he said. “It took us a little while to get used to that, the length of their arms and their knowledge of where to be.”
Moravia has won three of the past four sectional titles; it lost to eventual champ Elmira Notre Dame in the 2012 quarterfinals before rebounding last year to knock off Watkins Glen, 52-41, in the final. The Blue Devils’ lone loss this year came at Class B Whitney Point, 68-62, on Jan. 14.
The Golden Eagles were knocked out of the Class B tournament Saturday with a 78-57 loss to unbeaten Norwich, the top seed and No. 4 team in the state.
GIRLS: Sectionals resume Wednesday night for the girls, with semifinals in classes C and D. The C semis feature a trio of IAC teams — top seed Lansing (17-2) hosts fourth seed Notre Dame (15-5) and No. 2 Candor (15-2) hosts Harpursville (19-0).
The Hornets, despite being ranked first in the state in Class C, are the third seed for the sectional tournament. The winners will meet for the sectional title at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Arena.
Wednesday’s Class D semis feature top-seeded Southern Cayuga (18-2), the IAC Small School champion, against No. 4 seed Schenevus (15-4), and No. 2 seed South Kortright (19-0) against No. 3 seed Franklin (18-0). The latter game pits the Nos. 1 and 3 teams, respectively, in the state Class D poll. The winners will meet for the title at 6:30 p.m. Saturday at SUNY Oneonta.