John Fazzary admits revenge will likely be a factor when his Watkins Glen boys’ basketball team travels to Newfield on Tuesday night to take on the 17th-ranked Trojans.
After all, Newfield (13-1 overall, 11-1 Interscholastic Athletic Conference) roughed up the Senecas pretty soundly in the championship game of Watkins Glen’s Christmas Tournament, parlaying a 12-0 run to open the second half into a 42-30 victory on Dec. 23.
But evening the score will be part of the Glen’s motivation when the teams tip off at 7 p.m., according to its veteran coach.
“That’s in our players’ heads, that they’ve beaten us,” Fazzary said, “and I think the other thing is that, you want to be playing well and beating someone that is playing well and is a good team. Newfield’s 17th in the state, so if you beat a team in an environment like Newfield’s going to have over there, you feel good about your team as you progress toward sectional play.
“We’re looking at it as an opportunity to see how we’re doing and where we’re at,” he said.
The IAC Large South Division title is out of the Glen’s reach — Elmira Notre Dame (14-1, 12-0 IAC) clinched it Friday night with a 60-22 rout of Newark Valley. But the Senecas (13-3, 10-2) can still gain points in the Section 4 Class C seedings, with the championship tournament looming on the horizon.
In the teams’ first meeting in December, Newfield took a 17-16 lead into the halftime break but came out blazing after the intermission, outscoring the Glen 13-3 in the pivotal third quarter. Fazzary said his younger players were rattled by Newfield’s press, which forced several turnovers, and his squad had a tough time containing Trojans guard Chris Byrd, who finished with 16 points and took home tournament MVP honors.
Fazzary said staying in front of the 5-foot-10 senior — and keeping the Trojans off the free-throw line — will be key.
“They’ve got eight or nine players who can play, and it all starts with Byrd,” Fazzary said. “He’s been around for a while, and he’s very tough to contain. He can get to the basket with his penetration, he can shoot the ball and he can distribute it. He doesn’t look quick, but he’s as quick as there is around our league. And that can be where we pick up a lot of fouls, trying to keep him in front of us, so that’s probably one of our major challenges.”
“He’s built low to the ground, stocky and strong,” Newfield coach Duane Barrett said. “He used to play running back in football, and he’s as quick as they come. He’s a dynamic athlete. His first step is ridiculous, most kids can’t stay in front of him.”
Barrett called the Glen “one of the tougher man-to-man teams we’ve faced all year,” a team that forces you to earn everything you get.
“They tend to pack it in the paint,” Barrett said. “In the second half (of the first meeting), we hit some outside shots and loosened it up a little bit, and made free throws down the stretch. They’re a very tough opponent, but we’re looking forward to it. We’re trying to make a statement game out of this one, because we know that Watkins Glen is one of the teams we’re going to have to deal with in sectionals.”
Byrd is complemented by the inside threats of 6-4 junior Devin Cooper, 6-5 senior center Alex Fuller and 6-5 junior reserve Dekhari Stewart, all of whom are “bigger than anybody we’ve got,” Fazzary said. “It’s just a tough guard.”
The Trojans — whose only loss came in the second game of the season, a 79-47 beating at Notre Dame — are coming off an 8-10 campaign a year ago and a first-round exit in the Section 4 Class C tournament. Barrett said improved defense has keyed the resurgence, along with the additions of Stewart and junior Brian Barrett (the coach’s nephew), both of whom transferred in from Ithaca.
“And our JV team was very good last year,” Coach Barrett said, “so the kids from that group have also been contributing. We’ve got a lot of pieces to the puzzle, and we’re fairly deep.”
Newfield has had the IAC Small South Division wrapped up for a couple of weeks, has has Small North champion Moravia (13-1, 11-1). They will meet at 8 p.m. Feb. 13 at Tompkins Cortland Community College, for the IAC Small School championship. The Blue Devils are ranked No. 4 in Class C and have won three of the past four sectional championships.
“They’ve got the big kid (6-7 senior Chandler Benson) who’s very strong,” Barrett said. “And they love to shoot the ball from the perimeter, the 3-point line for them is key. And they like to press people, press you out of your game and force turnovers, so we know we’re going to have to manage the ball, make sure we contest open shots and take advantage of our size.
“He (Moravia coach Todd Mulvaney) can match up with us with the Benson kid,” Barrett said, “but he’s going to have difficulty matching up the rest of the way.”
As the IAC boys basketball seaason enters its final week, one of the four divisions is still up in the air — the Large North, where Whitney Point (11-2, 9-1) and Lansing (10-3, 8-2) are separated by a game. The Golden Eagles travel to Marathon (8-6, 7-4) Tuesday, and the Bobcats head up to Cayuga County to face winless Union Springs.
Both teams wrap up their regular seasons Friday, Whitney Point hosting Newark Valley (4-11, 3-9) and Lansing welcoming Notre Dame in an 8 p.m. start. The Crusaders will play the North champion in the Large School final at 8 p.m. Feb. 14 at TC3, following the girls’ Large School final at 6.