The Cathedral Prep Crusaders came out quickly and dominated Archbishop Walsh early before having to hold off a second-half charge by the team from Olean, N.Y. to win the CHSAA Class C state championship Sunday afternoon at Fordham University, 70-56.
The Crusaders (19-7) advance to the state Federation tournament in Glens Falls where they will play Brooklyn Friends Friday at 3:15 p.m. in the Class C semifinals.
First-year head coach Frank McQuail admittedly went into the CHSAA state finals with little to no knowledge of his teams opponent. But Cathedral stuck to its own game plan, which helped the team claim the Intersectional crown over Monsignor Scanlan the week before.
We tried to find everything on the Internet we could, McQuail said. I asked everybody I knew and nobody had seen or heard of Archbishop Walsh except for the big kid.
We want to come out hard and fast and set tempo early and not look back, he added. We were able to do that again this afternoon.
After Walsh star Keon Rembert, who finished with 24 points, 14 rebounds and 4 blocks, started the scoring with a basket 25 seconds in, Cathedral answered with nine straight points, capped by two free throws by leading scorer Bradd Wierzbicki.
An 8-1 run followed, culminated by a fast break layup by Kevin McGrath to make the score 17-4 just past the midway point of the first quarter.
The Crusaders press forced Walsh (18-9) into numerous early turnovers and helped set the pace of the game.
We really came out and gave it to them, said Wierzbicki, who finished with 27 points. They looked scared in the first half, honestly.
A basket by Brian Chambers at the 5:26 mark of the second quarter pushed the lead to 20, 33-13. The inside play of Ray Tinneny was also key to the Crusaders success throughout the game, outmuscling the Eagles players under the basket to grab key rebounds and deny Rembert second looks at the basket.
I think we were just working a little harder than them under the boards, Tinneny said. There was lots of banging going on.
Tinneny, who finished with 15 points and 12 rebounds, was named MVP of the Intersectional tournament and has been a key for McQuail all season.
He plays his heart out, McQuail said. Hes like a 5-foot-11 center. He plays with a lot of guts, he rebounds, and I cant ask him to do anymore than he does.
By halftime Cathedral was up 41-26 and seemed destined to cruise to an easy win.
An 8-2 run to start the second half pushed the lead to its largest of the afternoon, 49-28, but just as quickly the lead was cut nearly in half by a 10-0 run by the Eagles.
Forcing the Crusaders to play a little faster than they would have liked, Archbishop Walsh was able to capitalize on some Cathedral turnovers and pull within seven on a three by Darren Dwyer at the 5:53 mark of the fourth quarter.
It doesnt matter if were up 40, Im still nervous, McQuail said. I do have confidence in the kids and I knew once it came down to crunch time, they would be there, they would step up. Theyve been there all year long. As nervous as I might be, I have the utmost confidence in them. Theyve done the job time and again for us.
A beautifully executed back-door cut by McGrath started a 10-0 run by Cathedral that sealed the win.
McGrath finished with 9 points, 2 blocks and 2 steals, while Brett Wierzbicki, Bradds twin brother and the teams starting point guard, finished with 10 rebounds, 5 assists, 4 points and 2 steals.
Two more wins in Glen Falls and Cathedral can add another state to its already impressive resume.
Were going to win it, Bradd Wierzbicki promised.
Notes: With his 27 points, Wierzbicki raised his two-year varsity career total to 998. He is also just 10 points shy of the school scoring record, set by Brian Butler in 1989.
Reach Sports Editor Anthony Bosco by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 130.
©2003 Community News Group
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