Can Mechanicville be a major player again in the Section II Class C basketball tournament?
The Red Raiders believe so, and declared themselves ready to launch after closing out their Colonial Council campaign with a 55-46 comeback win over Ichabod Crane Tuesday night.
“If we play like we did in the second half, not too many teams out there can stop us,” said junior guard Mike Cannizzo, who served as the sixth man on last year’s Mechanicville edition that claimed the Class C banner and advanced to the state semifinals. “I think we can be a championship team again.”
Cannizzo scored 13 of his 20 points in a game-changing 26-9 third-quarter run, and Mechanicville held off the Riders afterward to finish 9-9 (5-8 league) with the sectionals right around the corner.
“We’re excited. We hope to have an experience like we did last year,” said Mechanicville coach Rian Richardson. “A lot of people wrote us off because we lost so much, but I know my guys. I like their heart.”
The Red Raiders showed plenty of that after falling behind at the half, 22-17, against a group of Riders they had beaten by 15 points in mid-January.
“The first half, I don’t even know what that was, but we hung together and got it going,” said Cannizzo. “The second half is what counts.”
And now it’s on to the second season for a Red Raiders team that has won four of its five games against Class C competition. The Red Raiders dropped consecutive games to Cohoes and Lansingburgh before their comeback victory on senior night.
“Most of our losses are against Class A and Class B teams,” said Richardson. “In a way, playing those teams is a big advantage for us. It gets us ready for this time of the year.”
“A lot of people may look at our record. We’re going to be fine,” said Cannizzo, who came within two points of his career high. “We play a lot of tough teams and that’s got us ready.”
Cannizzo sank three three-point baskets and a layup in a 13-4 spurt to begin the third quarter, and his putback and Sal Cimino’s three that followed capped a 9-0 string that ended the period.
“At the half, I told the guys we’ll look better for the [sectional] seeding with a 9-9 record instead of
8-10,” said Richardson. “We came out in the third quarter and showed what we’re capable of. We got after it pretty good.”
Mechanicville’s increased offensive production in the third quarter coincided with an effective fullcourt press.
“Our press messed them up a little bit,” said Cannizzo. “It’s designed to slow people down more than create turnovers, and that’s what we did.”
Mechanicville ended up collecting 12 steals with its pressure defense and its active 3-2 zone in the half court.
“We play really good, aggressive defense. That’s us,” said Richardson, who graduated scoring leader Jordan McBride, top rebounder Ryan McBride and do-everything Sam DeCelle from last season’s 19-6 team. “Offense is where we’ve had some struggles. I’ve had five or six different guys lead us in scoring, and if they can all step up and be a threat, that will make us even tougher. I’m hoping they can all put it together.”
Nate Hatalsky had 10 points and four assists for Mechanicville, Adam Dunn scored eight points, Cimino finished with seven points and four steals, and Paul Vermilyea added six points and six rebounds.
Hatalsky and Cannizzo both sank two free throws to give Mechanicville a 51-39 advantage with 3:18 left.
“Being senior night and coming from behind, this was a big win,” said Cannizzo. “This one was for the seniors.”
Steve James paced Ichabod Crane (3-10, 8-10) with 17 points, 12 rebounds and two blocks, and fellow 6-foot-4 forward Shaun Davis had 12 points and nine rebounds. James delivered eight second-quarter points including a late tip-in to help the Riders build their lead.
James scored on a third-quarter putback to keep Ichabod Crane’s advantage at five, 24-19. Cannizzo scored on a drive and then nailed back-to-back threes for a 27-24 lead, and Mechanicville never trailed again.
James 8-1-17, Davis 5-1-12, Pulsifer 3-0-6, Rybka 2-0-4, Scarano 1-0-2, Hollister 2-0-5. Totals: 21-2-46.
Hatalsky 3-4-10, A. Dunn 4-0-8, Cimino 3-0-7, Vermilyea 1-3-6, Cannizzo 7-2-20, Dumas 2-0-4. Totals: 20-9-55.
Ichabod Crane 10 12 9 15 — 46
Mechanicville 8 9 26 12 — 55
Three-point goals: Davis, Hollister, Cimino, Vermilyea, Cannizzo 4.