Commentary: Union-Endicott boys basketball believed they could beat Mount Vernon even when nobody else did

Commentary: Union-Endicott boys basketball believed they could beat Mount Vernon even when nobody else did

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Commentary: Union-Endicott boys basketball believed they could beat Mount Vernon even when nobody else did

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How many people outside Union-Endicott’s dressing room, C.J. Krowiak was asked, believed once-beaten, second-ranked, Westchester County heavyweight Mount Vernon would tumble in Saturday’s Class AA quarterfinal at Binghamton University’s Events Center?

“I would say none,” said Krowiak, senior guard and Tigers scoring leader at 25.6 points per game. “I mean, some people probably had a little hope, but mostly in the back of everyone’s head probably was that we would get smoked.”

As for those within the inner circle?

“I mean, everyone has to have confidence going into a game. But looking back to when we played them my freshman year, the outcome of that and then coming into this … You’ve got to have confidence but in the back of your head it’s like — you’re a little nervous playing Mount Vernon.”

Then came 32 minutes of basketball, when reputation ceased to matter and unranked U-E pulled off a 69-66 overtime surprise. Ahead for the Tigers is a semifinal against Jamestown, 12:30 Saturday in the Glens Falls Civic Center.

Krowiak and backcourt mate Osama Barwari teamed for 48 points for the Tigers, who trailed by 32-26 midway through and outscored the Knights by 16-10 in the fourth quarter to force overtime.

“We were down six at the half and we didn’t play well, we had a lot of turnovers, missed a lot of easy buckets,” Krowiak said. “Going into the half down only six, we had some confidence that if we played even a little bit better than we played in the first half, we could be able to beat them.”

And, the boys evidently absorbed coach Joe Alger’s inspirational messages.

“Before the game he kept preaching that it was very do-able, if we played assignment basketball, did what we needed to do that we would be happy with the outcome,” Krowiak said. “Then second half, during timeouts, when we were in it he just kept telling us, ‘we can do it.’ “

The Tigers’ defensive blueprint was designed to turn Mount Vernon into a jump-shooting team — and the Knights’ 5-for-22 ineffectiveness from 3-point range fed right in. Another portion of U-E’s practice-floor preparation had the team working on its press-breaker against six- and seven-man defenses by way of simulating Mount Vernon’s ferocious trapping.

“We fared better against Mount Vernon than we did against the seven guys. That definitely helped,” Krowiak said.

He was a freshman on U-E’s most recent sectional championship team before this winter. What followed was an 86-47 quarterfinal loss to Mount Vernon.

“They were a different team this year,” he said. “I remember that year when we played them, their starting point guard went on and started at West Virginia the next year as a freshman and they had other Division I and Division II players. They were a good team.

“Even though we lost by 39, we came into that game scared, just turned the ball over left and right. I said, come into this game with confidence, don’t turn the ball over. That team is not as good as it was a couple years ago and we’re a better team that what we were.”

Hornets off to Troy, again

Harpursville’s top-ranked girls will be off to the Class C final four in Troy for the third time in four seasons on the strength of Saturday’s 53-46 victory against second-ranked Little Falls at Onondaga Community College Troy. Miranda Drummond and Shelby Medovich scored 28 and 15 points, respectively, for the 23-0 Hornets.

Drummond was also instrumental in holding Mounties ace Gen Schoff to four points while Harpursville built a 34-19 halftime lead. Schoff, coming off a 30-point game in the Section 3 final, closed with 12 points.

“We spent a lot of time with Miranda on how we wanted her to play Gen,” Hornets coach Kurt Ehrensbeck said. “She’s a fantastic player. She’s going to be a good college player. Miranda, with the size and the quickness and the speed, poses some problems. She worked her butt off.

“We decided we were going to front (Schoff) in the low post and kind of play to the side. But we also got our guards to play high on the ball so they couldn’t lob it to her. I think that was big. It was a combination of Miranda playing her tough and the guards not letting their guards get a good look to throw the ball into her over the top.”

It’s only a game

Norwich coach Tom Collier injected a bit of perspective into his postgame address following a 56-53 overtime loss to Syracuse Westhill in a Class B quarterfinal, the Purple Tornado’s lone loss this season and second to Westhill in as many years.

“We played them right to the hilt. I thought our game plan was sound, I thought we were right there,” Collier said. “I really thought we were going to win this game. I had the confidence we could win, I had the confidence we could stop them. But at the end of the day we fall short again.

“But our program is about more than basketball, our program is about life lessons. I told the guys, if this is the worst thing that happens to you in your life, based on my experience, believe me, you’re going to have a heck of a good life.

” … If Westhill goes on to win a state title, we’ll be ranked whatever we’re ranked, but in my heart we’re the second-best team in the state.”

That tall man with the striking white mane heading Westhill was Kevin King, who as a Syracuse University junior was a prominent reserve for a team that reached the 1975 Final Four in San Diego. Collier reiterated his admiration for King.

“Kevin does a good job. He wants to play us next year,” he said. “I told him, ‘Kevin, I immediately liked you the first time I saw you. You weren’t wearing a tie, you’re my kind of guy.’ “

King chuckled postgame when asked how frequently his resemblance to former Georgia Tech and College of Charleston coach Bobby Cremins is mentioned.

“I actually grew up not far from Bobby Cremins,” he said. “He recruited me to South Carolina when I was in high school.”

Odds & ends

Since absorbing their second loss of the season — to Owego in a STAC semifinal — Maine-Endwell’s girls have beaten top-ranked Wallkill, 13th-ranked Peekskill and 18th-ranked Vestal by a 19-point average margin. Next up for the Spartans is once-beaten Pittsford Sutherland, presently ranked seventh. …

Franklin’s girls finished a second consecutive 20-1 season with a 52-35 Class D quarterfinal loss to Hamilton, the Purple Devils’ lowest scoring output of the season. Senior Jordan Beers scored 19 points, leaving her 2,442 over six varsity seasons — second all-time in Section 4 behind Harpursville’s Hannah Kimmel (2,692). …

The Class D boys quarterfinal brought a 55-38 win by top-ranked New York Mills over Davenport. It was a matchup of coaches who have combined for 1,058 victories — Davenport’s Lee Fisher and Mills’ Mike Adey. …

Kudos from one D-I player to another: Utica Notre Dame’s Emily Durr (Iowa State) said of Oneonta’s Mariah Ruff (Saint Bonaventure) in the wake of the Jugglers’ 50-44 quarterfinal win: “Of course they wanted to get a lot of shots up and I give credit to that team to get the ball in Mariah’s hands where she could score. She played a tremendous game. We were teammates in AAU and I wish her the best of luck. She’s probably the best player I’ve played against. She’s so tough and she makes everybody around her a lot better.”

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