How well the Elmira Notre Dame boys basketball team boxes out could determine whether the Crusaders’ season continues beyond Saturday.
“They’re not great shooters, but they just kill the offensive glass and it’s on full attack,” Notre Dame coach Bill Hopkins said of Section 3 champion Waterville. “If you miss a boxout, they’re going to get the rebound. They’re just very strong kids.”
The teams meet at 3:45 p.m. in Syracuse at Onondaga Community College’s SRC Arena, with a trip to Glens Falls for the final four on the line.
Notre Dame (20-1) is ranked second in the state in Class C following last week’s 65-62 win over previous No. 3 Moravia in the Section 4 final. Waterville (20-2) is ranked ninth and beat Fabius-Pompey, 58-49, for the Section 3 title.
Two years ago the Crusaders made it to this point and lost to Cooperstown, 63-49.
“We know that Waterville is a very good team. We know anybody from here on out is going to be a good team,” Crusaders senior center Nate Niles said.
Junior forward Zach Sawyer had 21 points and 12 rebounds in the win over Fabius-Pompey and is averaging about 17 points per game, just behind senior guard Jon Piersma’s 18 per contest.
Hopkins said at 6-foot-4, Sawyer is taller than anyone the Crusaders have faced at his position.
“I’ve got my pit bull, Derek Marshall, who will probably match up with him to start,” Hopkins said. “We’ll see how it works out.”
Waterville is big in the frontcourt, with players at 6-foot-5, 6-4 and 6-3.
The Crusaders counter with a 65 points per game offense led by junior guard Darius Garvin’s 17.8 per game. Senior swingman Tom Agan averages 11.8 and senior guard Jonas McCaig scores 10.5 and leads the team with 49 3-pointers.
Hopkins said the Indians admit they are not a great shooting team and like to play a 2-3 zone defensively. Notre Dame’s lineup is filled with guys who can make 3-pointers and their outside touch will likely play a large role in the outcome.
If Notre Dame has its way, look for the teams to go toe-to-toe.
“We’ll get after their guards a little bit and try to play a little bit full court,” Hopkins said. “I was told they like to play full court, too, so OK, we’ll see how your athletes match up to ours and we’ll hang around the first quarter and see where you are in the second quarter and see where you are in the fourth quarter because we’re going to keep coming.”
Said Crusaders senior guard Hunter Thomas: “We need to play good team defense, we need to rebound the ball well. We’ve been doing that these past four games and we just need to play together and we’ll pull it out.”