Manley Field House
|After building a nine-point lead midway through the third period, first-year coach Ryan Dando’s tall and determined Tully basketball team thwarted a late-game Onondaga comeback and finally defeated their longtime nemesis 54-52 in the Section 3 Class C boys basketball title game Tuesday night at Manley Field House. |
The stunning victory sends the unranked Black Knights (17-7) into their first-ever state regional playoff game at 3 p.m. Saturday at Oswego State. There, Section 4 Class C champion Newfield (18-4) will furnish the opposition. The winner of that game advances to the Glens Falls Civic Center for the state semifinals the following weekend.
After the game, Tully 6-foot-5 senior forward Jason Shaw, whose 13 points tied 6-5 junior forward Dan Hardy for the team lead, pointed to past frustrations as a big reason for Tully’s win. "Those guys had beaten us six times in a row over the past three years in league (Patriot Division) play," Shaw said. "We didn’t want to end our careers with still another loss to those guys. I just think we wanted this game a bit more than they did."
Shaw, along with senior starters 6-4 Sean Malone and 5-10 Zack Shute, had been drubbed twice each winter for the past three seasons by coach Larry Behm’s two-time sectional champion Tigers.
Onondaga (17-6) started the game tentatively, missing its first six shots.
Despite that shaky beginning, the Tigers — who got a game-high 22 points from all-state 6-2 forward Hodges Sneed and 17 more from junior guard Tez Thomas — used their superior speed and quickness to build their largest lead of the game at 22-17 early in the second quarter. However, Tully senior Shute then drilled two consecutive 3-point shots, his second trey giving Tully a 25-24 lead shortly before halftime. Both Shute and senior guard Malone finished with 11 points.
After Onondaga claimed a 30-29 halftime lead, Tully began dominating play under the boards with its superior size. Midway through that period, Tully built its largest lead of the game at nine points — 42-33 — on a dunk by Shaw.
From that point Onondaga rallied strongly, but foul trouble began to plague the Tigers. Senior guard Mike Hart, who scored just five points after having swished a season-high 23 in Saturday’s Class C-2 title game win over Dolgeville, exited the game after being whistled for his fourth foul with 58 seconds left in the third quarter.
Before the game ended, both Hart and Sneed would foul out, crippling the Tigers’ late comeback bid.
Hart returned to action with 5:54 remaining and Tully leading 47-42. Quickly, Onondaga mounted its final, desperate rally, relying heavily upon a man-to-man defensive press.
With 1:59 to go, Onondaga narrowed its deficit to 51-48 on a driving layup by Sneed. As it turned out, that was the final bucket of his career, Sneed finishing with 1,177 career points. On the ensuing inbounds play, Sneed went for an ill-advised steal attempt and was whistled for his fifth foul with 1:58 left to play.
Seconds later, Tully’s Bill Henderson was fouled but missed. (Tully was 1-for-7 from the free throw line in the fourth period). Onondaga’s Thomas then drove the length of the court and tried a layup that missed, but Tully’s Hardy was called for goaltending. Tully’s lead was down to 51-50.
Seconds later, Tully’s Malone was fouled but he, too, misfired at the free throw line with 1:42 remaining, Onondaga getting the ball back. Again, Thomas drove downcourt and dropped in his final layup of the season, giving the Tigers a 52-51 lead with 1:25 remaining. That basket was their final score of the season.
With time running down, both Felipe Diaz and Chris Redington missed the front end of one-and-ones for Onondaga
Then, with 21 seconds left, Tully guard Malone turned in perhaps the game’s biggest play. Driving down the lane, Malone dropped in a 14-foot straight-on bank shot and was fouled on the play by Hart, whose basketball career ended on that play.
Malone missed the ensuing free throw, but in the ensuing 21 seconds, Onondaga never got off a shot that might have won the game. Instead, a pass from sophomore Redington was intercepted by Tully’s Shute, who got the ball to Hardy. Hardy was fouled in the game’s final second and dropped in Tully’s only successful free throw of the final period to end the scoring.
Afterward, Onondaga’s Hart was visibly annoyed with the five personal fouls called against him. "Two of those fouls called against me were real bad calls," Hart said, shaking his head.
Onondaga coach Behm pointed to Tully’s 2-3 zone defense and rebounding edge as keys to defeat. "We had trouble with their size the whole game," said Behm, who was also upset with the whistle-tooters. "I don’t want to complain about the officiating," the frowning Behm said. However, it was obvious that he thought the fifth foul whistled against Hart was the biggest key to ending the Tigers’ season.
Tully’s Shaw pointed to late-season confidence as a huge factor in the win. "Earlier this season, we lost a lot of close games because we didn’t know how to win," Shaw said. "The last month or so, we finally learned how to keep our cool in the last quarter of a tight game."
Shaw isn’t kidding, because Tully’s last three wins have come by scores of 52-50 (over Sauquoit), 56-55 (over Herkimer) and 54-52.
Tully’s sizable junior, Hardy — whose seven rebounds led the Black Knights has already committed to play lacrosse at Syracuse University after his 2005 graduation. His older brother Tom was a key to SU’s 2002 NCAA title drive, as he scored the tying and winning goals against Virginia in the 12-11 semifinal win.
Absent from action was the Tully backcourt duo of Kyle and Mike Sears, both of whom are on a family vacation to Florida. Those two have combined to average just over 10 points per game for Dando’s dandies. They aren’t expected back for Saturday’s game vs. Newfield. ... Onondaga’s Thomas ended his junior season with 1,033 career points. ... Tuesday’s game was the final scholastic event for Onondaga football sensation Hart, who plans to spend the spring season lifting weights and working out to get stronger and prepare for his upcoming football career at the University of Michigan.
Hodges Sneed 9-4-22, Tez Thomas 7-2-17, Felipe Diaz 4-0-8, Mike Hart 2-0-5, Chris Redington 0-0-0, Dan Jensen 0-0-0, Chris Hart 0-0-0, Brandon Hollister 0-0-0, Dennis Kimball 0-0-0, Dan Germain 0-0-0. Totals: 22-6-52. 3-pt. goals: Tez Thomas 1, Mike Hart 1. 10-4 (17-6)
Dan Hardy 4-5-13, Jason Shaw 6-1-13, Sean Malone 5-0-11, Zack Shute 4-0-11, Bill Henderson 3-0-6, Jon Knowles 0-0-0, Sam Fraser 0-0-0. Totals: 22-6-54. 3-pt. goals: Zack Shute 3, Sean Malone 1. 9-5 (17-7).