Big win won’t mean much if Cadets come up short

Some said Albany Academy essentially clinched the Section II Class AA boys’ basketball championship

Some said Albany Academy essentially clinched the Section II Class AA boys’ basketball championship when it dethroned Bishop Maginn in last week’s thrilling semifinal round.

Coach Brian Fruscio and his Cadets are not buying into that foregone conclusion, with Christian Brothers Academy waiting to supply the competition in tonight’s large-school final at 7 at the Times Union Center.

CBA outlasted Shenendehowa in overtime before Albany Academy went OT, too, lifting the Brothers into their seventh consecutive final, and the Cadets into their second in a row.

With 19 wins and a Colonial Council title in hand, Albany Academy was labeled a big favorite to capture the Class A flag in 2008, yet lost to Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons in what amounted to a romp.

“Last year, we don’t talk about that too much,” Fruscio said. “That’s not the team we are this year.”

The Cadets still feel it, though.

“My group wants to win a championship. We haven’t won anything yet,” Fruscio said. “That’s coming from the kids. They’ve talked about that. In the past. they allowed overconfidence to shade and impede their prepar­ation and performance.

“This week, there’s been a workmanlike attitude. They’ve prepared for the game hard, and they’re on edge a little bit,” he added. “The seniors have definitely raised the awareness. There’s a sense of urgency.”

The independent Cadets (22-1), elevated to the Class AA level for the first time, have played with a vengeance in building an impressive resume behind Iona-bound senior center Chris Pelcher and Fairfield-bound junior guard Jamel Fields. The Cadets were seeded second behind Shenendehowa among Suburban Council schools for the sectionals, and steamrolled Catholic Central and quelled a hot Albany team before nipping Bishop Maginn, 60-59, last Tuesday, when senior guard Jimmer Bennett scored on a breakaway layup in the final seconds.

A final defensive stand ended Bishop Maginn’s hopes of a repeat state title, and gave Academy a shot at its first Section II crown since 1997 (Class B). The Cadets have a No. 2 state ranking coming in, and a 13-game winning streak, with only a 68-49 loss to Los Alamitos, Calif., smudging their slate.

“It does a lot for our confidence, winning that game,” Fruscio said. “But what it got us is a chance to play for the title. My job is to make sure they stay grounded.”

Fields collected 22 points, Pelcher worked for 15 and 13 rebounds and Tyler Foster launched the fullcourt pass that Bennett — the Section II record-holder for career receptions in football — hauled in as a pair of Griffins collided.

“We’re going to be playing a great team,” said CBA junior forward Kameron Ritter. “We’ll have to be at our best.”

CBA (20-3) won its last game in a frantic finish, 63-56, with Galal Cancer and Max Weaver both scoring five points in overtime after Shenendehowa drew even on Matt Lee’s buzzer-beating jumper. The resilient Brothers will be trying to add to their titles from 2004-06, having lost to Maginn the last two years, and to Fruscio’s LaSalle team in 2003.

“Coach [CBA’s Dave] Doemel and I have been through this war together before,” Fruscio said. “He’s one of the best coaches in Section II history. Think his team will be prepared?”

They were against the Suburban Council’s best team, showing patience and balance on offense, and fine defense against Shenendehowa’s drive-and-kick attack.

“They executed and showed great heart,” said Doemel. “We’re going to need those things again.”

Young guns

Both sophomore guards, Weaver scored a career-high 19 points, and Cancer had 13 with nine rebounds and two key steals in overtime.

“He’s done that for us all year,” Doemel said of Weaver, who was 9-for-10 from the line, with five rebounds. “He gives us a tremendous boost off the bench. He does the right things. He hustles, and the other guys feed off that.”

Ritter netted 15 points, and

senior center Andy Stire totaled 12 points and 11 boards in the win over Shenendehowa. Stire began CBA’s 7-0 burst to begin overtime with a baseline jumper, Ritter ended it with a layup, and the state’s No. 18-ranked team was on its way to another final, carrying an eight-game win streak.

“Stire is our leader,” Ritter said. “When he made that basket, that was a big one. With that, he said he’s ready to win, and we followed him.”

“They have a Division I player in Ritter, and a potential scholarship player in Cancer. They have other talented players in Stire and Weaver,” Fruscio said. “They’re long and smart, and they do a great job of controlling tempo.”

CBA knocked off Bethlehem and Colonie before the Shenendehowa win. Tonight, the Brothers will tie the Section II record when they compete in their seventh straight final, equaling runs by Shenendehowa (1985-91) and Philip Schuyler (1966-72).

Tonight’s winner will play Saturday at 6 p.m. in Syracuse against the Section III (CBA-Syracuse)-Section X (Massena) winner, to be determinded Friday.

Categories: High School Sports

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