By Rob Potter
LAKE HUNTINGTON February 24, 2004 The gymnasium at the Sullivan West High School has only been hosting basketball games since December, but the nets on both rims already need to be replaced.
While basketballs have fallen through those nets hundreds of times over the past three months, the need for replacement stems more from the fact that the old nets were cut down on Saturday night.
Sullivan West players and team managers took turns climbing a ladder and snipping away at the nets following the Bulldogs 65-61 victory over visiting James I. ONeill. SW held off a determined group of Raiders to capture the OCIAA Division IV title.
After ONeill (10-8, 3-3 OCIAA) held early leads of 4-1 and 5-3, SWs Sean Kelly knotted the score at 5-5 by swishing a pair of free throws with 5:58 remaining in the opening quarter. Forty seconds later, teammate Joe Meyer hit a three-point shot to give the Bulldogs an 8-5 lead.
ONeill again took the lead when Raheim Moss scored inside the lane with 3:55 left in the first period. That 10-9 advantage was erased 35 seconds later when SWs Joe Winski scored to put the Bulldogs up 11-10.
Following a basket by the Raiders Josh White with 2:32 remaining, Meyer responded 11 seconds later with a rare four-point play. The junior guard was fouled while shooting a three-point shot, which went in, and then made the subsequent free throw to put the Bulldogs up 15-12.
Once SW (14-4, 5-0 OCIAA) had that lead, the team did not relinquish it for the rest of the game.
A three-pointer by senior Brian Parks with just under two minutes left in the second period gave SW its largest lead of the game at 34-21. The Bulldogs enjoyed a 34-25 advantage at halftime.
In a second half where the action was intense and each team was whistled for a technical foul, the SW lead hovered between three and 10 points.
The Raiders cut the lead to four points twice in the final three minutes of the game, but could not get any closer.
Meyer made a pair of foul shots with 13.2 seconds remaining to give SW a 65-58 lead.
ONeills Ben DeAngelis, who scored a game-high 25 points, hit a three-pointer with two seconds left to pull the Raiders to within four.
We just couldnt seem to get over that hump where there was a four- or five-point difference, ONeill Coach Debbi Crowe said. But they shot 34 free throws and we only shot 16. As far as Im concerned, that was the game right there.
SW converted 23-of-34 free throws, while ONeill was 9-of-16 at the line.
ONeill has a lot of firepower, SW Coach Rick Ellison said. Coming into the game we wanted to stop [Ben] DeAngelis and [Bobby] Dodge from shooting from the outside. But they were able to score in other ways, like penetrating to the basket.
But SW had slightly more firepower on this night.
Leading the Bulldogs to the victory were Meyer, Kelly and Parks. Meyer scored a team-high 22 points, Kelly netted 19 points and Parks added 14.
Everybody played hard tonight, Ellison said. The starters played well and we got good contributions from guys like Scott Peters, John Nober and Mike Erlwein who came in off the bench.
This is really a special group of kids. There is just something about them. Theyre all competitors and theyre all winners.
Ellison credited George Rose, who coached the SW varsity basketball team last season, for completing a lot of the groundwork for this team. Ellison noted that many of the sophomores Rose guided in the 2002-2003 season are now juniors who are making great contributions for the current Bulldog squad.
We have had a lot of second place finishes over the past eight or nine years, added Ellison, referring to seasons when he guided Jeffersonville-Youngsville teams, Sullivan West/J-Y squads and SW teams. I feel like guys from those teams are a part of this as well.
Note: The four seniors on the SW roster Erlwein, Jon Heinle, Billy Nordenhold and Parks and their parents were honored prior to the game for their dedication to the basketball program.