Wildcats bounce RCS boys in sectional thriller

By Julia Green
By all accounts, it couldn’t possibly have been closer.
When sixth-seeded Roxbury traveled to Davenport Saturday for the second-round sectional match-up against the host Wildcats, it was a close battle from start to finish – a battle that reached its pinnacle when there was literally no time left on the clock. The final was 43-42, Davenport.
“I thought we played an awesome game until the last minute and 30 seconds,” said Roxbury Head Coach Tom Faraci. “I thought we played good defense, we only gave up 43 points; I was just extremely pleased with what we were able to do. I thought our effort was excellent, and I thought we were ready. We did a great job.”

The Rockets came out firing on all pistons in the first quarter, outscoring the third-seeded Wildcats 10-8. The battle continued in the second quarter, with each team tallying eight points to go into halftime with a two-point difference. By the end of the third quarter the margin had narrowed to a mere point, and it wasn’t until there were fewer than two minutes remaining in the game that a breakdown occurred. The Rockets had managed to step out to a five-point lead that they relinquished in the final minute-and-a-half.

“There was a shift in momentum,” Faraci said. “They made some plays and probably, if we could go back, I could name four things where we made a couple costly little mistakes various places on the floor and then it kind of changed the way the game played out. But I give them credit, they hit a big three and they capitalized on a couple things we probably shouldn’t have done.
“You’ve got to make plays,” he added. “A minute-30 doesn’t seem like a long time, but a lot can happen.”

With just 39 seconds remaining, Davenport’s Buddy Adam hit a three-pointer to cut Roxbury’s lead to two; Nick Keator tied it up shortly thereafter, making both ends of a 1-and-1. And, as time expired, a foul on Davenport’s Mike Ontl sent him to the free throw line, where he sank a foul shot to give Davenport the win.

“I just look at it as the last mistake,” Faraci said. “We had probably four plays where I’m going, ‘If one of those four doesn’t happen, we’re probably not even getting to that point.’ It was unfortunate, and somebody said it’s a bad way to lose, but I haven’t found a good way yet. It seems harsher or whatever, but I feel bad for my guys; I thought they really played hard and we just kind of let them off the hook there a little bit.”

DaVaun Morgan led the Rockets with 12 points, while Ryan Skipper and Tim Douglas tallied 10 apiece. Roxbury will lose both Skipper and Douglas to graduation, as well as Matt Cammer and Owen Sanford.

Looking forward to next season, Faraci said, “We’re losing some high-quality guys there, and we’ll have to find a way to fill that. We’re looking at bringing up some younger guys that could potentially play another year of JV but will probably be up. We’re bringing back some good players, and we’ll try to make that work again.

“I think we did very well to get where we were,” he said of the season. “I think we became a little bit more of a threat as the season went on, and it was a fun ride.”

Andes 42, Roxbury 57 (Wednesday)
It was a battle from start to finish when the sixth-seeded Roxbury (13-6) boys hosted 11th-seeded Andes (10-9) on Wednesday night, from which the Rockets emerged with a 57-42 victory to advance to the second round of the Section IV Class D tournament.
“I thought we played pretty well from start to finish,” said the Rockets’ Head Coach Tom Faraci. “We knew that Andes is tough, and they just keep coming at you, and we just kind of stayed the course and I thought we played well as a unit.”

Despite numerous attempts, Andes struggled to score points in the opening minutes of the game, but settled into a rhythm in which they rarely let Roxbury stray too far, as evidenced by a 16-13 Roxbury lead at the end of the first quarter.

“At the beginning of the game, I was thrilled with the way we moved the ball,” said Andes Head Coach John Bernhardt. “There were several sets where we had eight or nine passes and the shots just didn’t go in. I thought in the first quarter of the ball game we executed very well offensively.’
Both teams kept up the pressure in the second half, and while Andes continued to attempt to chip away at Roxbury’s composure, the Rockets seemingly could not be rattled. A three-pointer by Andes freshman Eddie Mackay tied the game at 16 less than two minutes into the quarter; however, an almost immediate response 30 seconds later in the form of a three-pointer by Roxbury’s Ryan Skipper averted any possible momentum shift.

“I think we had an answer for most of it,” Faraci said. “I don’t think we played our best game, and I’m not sure we’ve yet played our best game, but yeah, I think we had some answers. We didn’t give up a ton of points, and we did a good job on defense.”

Back-to-back Andes buckets gave the Mountaineers their second lead of the game with just under five minutes remaining in the first half, but it would be the last time Andes would lead.
Roxbury carried a 28-22 lead into halftime which grew to a 13-point lead in the third half, but a three-pointer by Andes’ Eric Reed with a minute left in the third quarter and a jumper by Josh Bonifacic with five seconds remaining in the period cut the lead back down to eight. Bernardt said he utilized timeouts in the third to maintain his team’s focus.

“It was the first time in my coaching career that I used every single timeout in the quarter,” he said. “I felt that our concentration was gone. We had battled so hard in the first half, and I used every single timeout to try and counter that.”

An increasingly physical fourth quarter followed, which Andes’ Ethan Berghammer opened with a three-pointer; however, in the three minutes that followed, the Rockets went on a 9-0 scoring run to widen their lead to 14 points.

“We were moving well and I guess it seemed like we got some transition baskets there off some rebounds,” Faraci said. “That certainly helped kind of ease things a little bit and make things a little more comfortable.” Roxbury continued its offensive pressure, taking a 15-point lead with two minutes remaining in the game to all but put it out of the Mountaineers’ reach.

“I thought we ended our season in a very competitive way,” Bernhard said. “Of the three times we played Roxbury, this was certainly the most competitive performance we had of the three games. We did something we hadn’t done all year: we fell behind and battled back. We did it two times, and though we didn’t have what it took to get over the top, I thought it was a telling point for us.”
Wednesday was also a night of milestones, as Roxbury celebrated the reaching of the 1,000-point mark by both Ryan Skipper and DaVaun Morgan.

“DaVaun had already made it, so we just kind of decided to wait and if Ryan made it we were going to do both at the same time,” Faraci said. “I’ve been asking around and people have been saying that they haven’t heard of two in the same season, so it was fitting to do them together. I’m pleased it worked out that way.”

Morgan led the Rockets with 18 points and Skipper tallied 12 for Roxbury; Ethan Berghammer led Andes with 14 points to end the season averaging in double figures.

“I just had a blast, personally,” Bernhardt said of the season. “ I really enjoyed getting back into coaching. I was really skeptical; I tried new things and as a group we tried new things that we’ve never tried before. That was kind of exciting. I’m really appreciative of Dave Ruff and the help he provided us and I think the kids had a really solid basketball experience and I’m glad they were able to win double-digit games and get into sectional play. They got into learning some of the personal discipline it takes to be successful, the mental concentration and focus, and I think we’re headed in the right direction. Time will tell.”

Andes will lose two seniors to graduation from this year’s squad.