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Rob Potter | Democrat

Eldred’s Steve Combs (32) reaches up to grab a rebound as teammate Bryan Henry, left, and Chapel Field’s Dustin Vellenga (24) watch during the second quarter of Tuesday night’s Section IX Class D semifinal game.

Chapel Field stops Eldred Yellowjackets in Section IX Class D semifinal, 49-42

By Rob Potter
ELDRED — March 5, 2010 — The Eldred Yellowjackets held a four-point lead over the Chapel Field Lions at halftime of Tuesday night’s Section IX Class D boys’ basketball semifinal game.
No. 3 seed Eldred also had a 33-32 advantage at the end of the third quarter.
But clutch shooting late in the fourth quarter enabled No. 2 seed Chapel Field to record a 49-42 victory in front of hundreds of fans in the extremely loud Eldred Central School gymnasium known as “The Beehive.”
With the win, Chapel Field (13-6) advanced to the Class D championship game. The Lions will play top-seeded John A. Coleman Catholic High School for the title at 6:45 p.m. today at Mount Saint Mary College in Newburgh.
Eldred’s Chris Pitcher stole the ball and scored a basket with 4:50 remaining in the fourth period to give the home team a 40-37 lead. But with 3:03 to go, Chapel Field’s Dustin Vellenga calmly made a pair of free throws to bring his team within a point.
Less than a minute later, Danny Menendez swished a 3-pointer to give the Lions a 42-40 advantage. At the 1:17 mark, Jesse Capalbo drilled a 3-point shot from the corner to push the Chapel Field lead to 45-40.
Scott Hallock put back a missed shot 17 seconds later to bring the Yellowjackets within three at 45-42.
But Capalbo sealed the Lions’ victory with a basket with 16 seconds remaining and a pair of free throws with three seconds to go.
Menendez led Chapel Field with a game-high 23 points, while Capalbo had 11 points and Vellenga added 10 points.
“Their 3-2 zone [defense] gave us fits,” Chapel Field Coach Joe Canazon said. “We had difficulty getting decent looks at the basket. They challenged everything.”
Canazon noted that Capalbo played a great game.
“In the fourth quarter, he hit a couple of very big baskets,” Canazon said. “His 3-pointer and rebounding were huge for us.”
Canazon also spoke about the challenge of playing in the Eldred gym. Although Chapel Field was the higher-seeded team, the game was played in Eldred since Chapel Field does not have a home gymnasium.
“This is one of the loudest gyms I have ever been in,” Canazon commented. “It’s a great atmosphere. We knew it was going to be tough playing here.”
Pat Reiser paced Eldred (8-8) with nine points. Blair Flanigan and Hallock registered eight points apiece and Mike Puzio had seven points.
“They got an early lead, which forced us to play an uptempo pace,” Eldred Coach J.J. Gass said. “That’s not our game.
“They had some good looks at the basket and made their shots,” he added. “We got some good looks at the basket and didn’t make those shots. That was the difference in the game.”
Gass was pleased with how his team played throughout the evening.
“They left it all out on the court and I can’t ask for anything more,” he said of his players.
“We had a great season,” Gass added. “We will be losing four seniors and three of them are starters. But most of these guys will be coming back next year.”
The four Yellowjacket seniors who will graduate in June are Blair Flanigan, Scott Hallock, Bryan Henry and Billy McKerrell. Prior to the game, they presented flowers to their family members, to Coach Wendy Julkerski and the Eldred cheerleading team and to members of the Lady Yellowjackets’ basketball team.

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