By Ted Waddell
WEST POINT March 9, 2004 If you were a fan of the Sullivan West Bulldogs, it didnt take long to realize it was going to be a bad day.
The top-seeded Raiders of Red Hook romped over the third-seeded SW Bulldogs, 55-32, Sunday on the way to being crowned Section IX Class B boys basketball champions.
The title game was played at Christl Arena on the United States Military Academy campus at West Point.
The Raiders jumped out to an unanswered seven-point lead in the first period. At the 3:51 mark, Sean Kelly finally put SW on the scoreboard by going one for two at the free throw line.
By halftime, Red Hook (21-1) had racked up a 24-9 lead.
The Raiders outscored SW by a 14-8 margin in the third period as they continued to chew up the Bulldogs, keeping their three-point shooters on a choke chain and virtually shutting down their explosive offense.
SW (16-6) staged a short-lived comeback early in the final quarter, closing the gap to 12 points.
But the scoring run sputtered out like a candle in the wind. Although the Bulldogs outscored Red Hook 15-7 in those final eight minutes of play, the Raiders walked off the floor with the trophy.
The top scorers for SW were Sean Kelly, who netted 13 points, and Joe Meyer, who finished with nine.
Red Hook had two hoopsters reach double figures: Greg Nero (22) and Derek Pinelli (10).
Stats from the free throw line: SW was 10-of-17 (59 percent) and Red Hook went 13-for-22 (59 percent).
Red Hook Coach Rod Chando said he lost four starters from last year, so he really didnt expect a 21-1 season spearheaded by his big guy, Nero, whos only a sophomore.
Sullivan West is a great team, Chando said. My biggest fear was their explosiveness . . . we like to press a lot, but they are a little too quick for us.
Also on his radar screen was the Bulldogs reputation for sinking three-point shots.
Theyre capable of burying threes, said Chando. Ive seen them with eight or nine threes in a game.
In the championship battle, however, each team recorded just a pair of three-point shots.
It was physical, both teams played hard, said Joe Meyer, a 17- year-old junior shooting guard at SW.
His hopes for next years hoops season?
Win it all, Meyer said.
Billy Nordenhold said he wasnt the Bulldogs best player, but I get em going and pump them up.
It was a great season and I loved it, but it ended on a bad note, added SWs 18-year-old senior sparkplug.
The Bulldogs arent going to make it to the state playoffs this season, but Nordenhold said at least the squad got to the big dance at West Point.
SW Coach Rick Ellison was visibly choked up when he talked about his team and the season outside the locker room.
Red Hook is where the bar is in Section IX Class B boys basketball, he said. Now we have a first-hand look at where the bar is and how much better we have to get.
Ellison told his team that if they could cut Red Hooks lead to 10 in the fourth period, theyd have a game. But the Bulldogs fell a couple of points short.
His take on the year?
It was beyond my expectations, Ellison commented. I thought that if we got to the sectionals Id be happy, but we went on to win our division and wound up Section IX Class B runners up.
Looking ahead to the 2004-2005 hoops season, four starters (Kelly, Meyer, Sean Semenetz and Joe Win- ski) and most of the reserves are expected to return.
Now that SW got a good look at the bar, what does Ellison think they need to do in order to clear it next year?
We need to play more basketball in the off season, he said. In the old Western Sullivan League, you used to play two or three sports, but now you need to specialize . . . the age of specialization is here.
I just want to thank these kids for what theyve done, and for what theyve meant to our school and community . . . what theyve done for the merger by bringing people together, Ellison added. Theyre a great bunch of boys, and I thoroughly enjoyed coaching them every day. Im very, very proud of them.