By Rob Potter
LOCH SHELDRAKE March 3, 2006 At the beginning of Wednesday nights Section IX Class D boys basketball game between the Livingston Manor Wildcats and The Family School Falcons, it looked as though the final score might be very lopsided.
The No. 2 seed Family School (13-6) raced out to a 17-4 lead over third-seeded Manor (6-13) in the first four minutes of the contest, which was the last of three Section IX scholastic basketball games played that evening at Paul Gerry Fieldhouse on the campus of Sullivan County Community College.
But the Manor players emulated one of the traits of their Wildcat mascot by clawing their way back from the deficit. Manor narrowed the gap to just six points later in the period. And after The Family School extended its advantage to as much as 18 points in the final minute of the third quarter, Manor made another scoring run in the fourth period.
With 3:04 displayed on the scoreboard clock Manor sophomore guard James Baker was fouled while attempting a 3-point shot. He then made two of his subsequent free throws to pull the Wildcats to within eight points at 52-44.
However, that was as close as the Wildcats would get as The Family School posted a 57-44 victory. With the win, the Falcons advanced to tomorrows Class D title game. The Family School and top-seeded Chapel Field (13-8) will play for the sectional crown at 4:45 p.m. at SUNY New Paltz.
Leading the Falcons to the win were senior forwards Ben Laufer and Will Gahan. Laufer recorded a game-high 18 points, grabbed seven rebounds and dished out two assists, while Gahan netted 16 points, pulled down six rebounds and blocked three shots.
In addition, Jason Peck added eight points and 13 rebounds and Andrew Van Riper had seven points and five assists for The Family School.
This is the first playoff win in our schools history and it feels great, Family School Coach Ted Towsley said. I am very proud of my team. They did a great job tonight.
Towsley noted that his teams aggressive press defense was a key factor in the contest.
Early on, it seemed to give Manor a lot of trouble, he said. We were able to get some easy steals and easy layups from our press.
Senior forward Rob Baker paced the Wildcats offense with 16 points, while his younger brother James Baker had 12 points. Senior forward Mike Perry added eight points for Manor.
Manor Coach Charlie Hicks said that his team had a mental lapse in the contests opening moments.
Weve seen their press before and we worked on breaking it at our practices the past two weeks, Hicks said. All of a sudden we were down by about 15 points.
However, Hicks was quick to credit The Family School which defeated Manor all four times the teams played this season.
The Family School has a great team, he commented. They are fast, strong and athletic.
While lamenting the loss of his three top scorers from this season seniors Rob Baker, Ethan McCann and Perry Hicks said the Wildcats have some good younger players that should be the foundation of the 2006-2007 Manor squad.
Among those younger players are James Baker, whom Hicks noted had a great game tonight, as well as freshman forward Shane Lewis, who played for several minutes in the contest.
In addition to Rob Baker, McCann and Perry, Manor will lose John Stanton, Ryan Taggart and Matt Verderame to graduation.