By Ted Waddell
WEST POINT March 12, 2004 The Livingston Manor Wildcats dreams of defeating a team with a 19-2 overall record going into the Section IX Class D finals came to an abrupt end Wednesday night.
The Spartans of S.S. Seward, who are the defending state Class D champions, soundly defeated Manor, which was making its first sectional appearance in 12 years. Seward defeated the Wildcats, 79-51, in the title game at Christl Arena to claim its third consecutive Section IX Class D crown.
The Wildcats (10-11) started to see a win at the end of the tunnel as they jumped out to a 17-15 lead over Seward (20-2) in the first period.
Manors George Thomas put the games first points on the scoreboard at 7:40, but by the 3:08 mark the game was tied 10-10.
With 1:48 remaining in the opening period, the Wildcats were back up by four (14-10), but then Sewards top gun Joe Hoyt sank a three-point shot to make it a 14-13 contest.
But then in the second quarter, the Spartans made a scoring run. At the 3:48 mark of the period, the Spartans had a 12-point advantage, 32-20.
Before heading off to the locker room, Manors Terrance McCann slashed the Spartans lead to nine with a three-pointer.
Early in the third period, the Wildcats clawed their way back to trail by just seven points (42-35), only to watch that glimmer of hope get erased by a Seward three as the Spartans marched to a final 28-point victory.
Double digit hoopsters for the Spartans included Hoyt (26), Chris Dagele (14) and Rob Gillespie (12).
Tim Bryant scored a team-high 10 points for Manor (10-11). Teammates Terrance McCann and Thomas added nine points apiece.
Stats from the free throw line: Manor was 6-was-14 (43 percent), Seward 18-of-34 (53 percent).
The game went as expected, said Seward Coach Rob Gravelle. Manor has come out strong in the first minutes every time weve played them, and they really took it to us tonight in the first period.
We struggled in the first period, but we focused on the whole 32 minutes, he added. I felt that our depth and athleticism would wear them down and it did . . . we just had to hang in there, not dig ourselves into a deep hole and get into foul trouble.
Gravelle credited the play of his whole team with the win, but singled out the performance of a trio of hoopsters with making it a reality. He noted that Hoyt stepped up and played great tonight with 26 points, Chris Dagele came off the bench for 14 and Gillespie whos done all the dirty work for us for three years, had a real nice game.
Manor Coach Charlie Hicks said he was extremely proud of my guys to have made it this far . . . its amazing what theyve been through.
The first period was good, but then in the second period Hoyt took over the game and stayed in control of it the whole time, he said. He really took it to the basket and my guys arent used to that.
Reflecting on the season, Hicks said, It was great. I dont think anybody expected us to win more than five games, and here we are at West Point . . . they worked hard, and Im looking forward to next year.
Thomas, Manors hard-charging workhorse, said it was a good game all the way around, but we just couldnt pull it off.
His view of the season?
A great step up by the juniors and a good job by the seniors, Thomas said.
Wildcat senior Pat Branning described the game against the Spartans as very physical. (The teams stepped up to the free throw line a total of 48 times).
We could have played better, but they are a really good team, Branning said. They just outplayed us the whole game.
Its the best season Manor has had in 12 years, and Im proud to have been part of it.
It was pretty cool to play at West Point, Branning added.
After the game and just before he got on the team bus, Manors Tim Bryant said, It was a good season, we just fell off for the last game.