By RICH KELLY
For the Star Beacon
SAYBROOK TOWNSHIP —
Fast starts are always a good thing in sports. In basketball, it can mean the difference between earning a victory or getting blown out.
For the Jefferson Falcons, their slow start and a quick start for the Lake Cougars led to a 77-49 triumph by the Cougars in a Division II sectional championship game Tuesday night at Lakeside Gymnasium.
The Cougars weren’t exactly roaring with energy early on, but they had more than enough to instill a sense of caution in the minds of the Falcons. The teams had played on Feb. 12, LC winning, 87-48, in Falcon Gymnasium, so there were no suprises to be sprung.
A 2-of 8-shooting effort for the Falcons in the first period foretold the outcome. Down 15-0 at the two-minute mark, Brett Powers drained a 3-pointer from the right corner to get the Falcons on the board, and his buzzer-beating bucket couldn’t ignite any fires in Jefferson shooters.
“You have to give a lot of credit to Lake’s defense tonight,” Jefferson coach Jeremy Huber said. “Our kids may have been a little concerned about blocks, but we’ve struggled with missing shots all season long, anyway. Tonight, the biggest part of it was just a lack of execution shooting the ball.”
The final numbers show the Falcons hitting a respectable 38 percent from the floor. Much of that evolved around a 7-of-14 effort in the fourth period, when the outcome has been settled.
“We wanted to keep this in an uptempo mode,” Lake Catholic coach Mark Chicone said. “We played Jefferson a while back, and they are not a bad team. We wanted a fast pace, and I think we were successful getting it.
“Jefferson has some real good looks at the basket early in the game. They were getting the ball downcourt faster than we wanted them to, so we couldn’t apply our fullcourt pressure like we wanted to. It was fortunate for us that their shots weren’t falling, or the outcome could well have been different.”
The Falcons (8-16) did have the looks, but hesitance in getting the ball up quickly cost them dearly.
“We lost a lot of close games this season,” Huber said. “I was really happy with how strong we finished the season. The seniors stepped up and gave us some great leadership and provided a good example for the younger kids.
“Lake Catholic is a seasoned team with a good tradition, so you know they will be ready to play and won’t get rattled. We had our chances, but the shots just weren’t falling tonight.”
Junior center David Chase led the Falcons with 13 points and eight rebounds, to go along with three blocked shots. Nine of his points came in the fourth period as Jefferson finally got some offense going, taking the ball inside.
To that point, Mark Baniewicz, with 19 points, eight rebounds, five steals and three blocked shots, paced a balance attack for the Cougars (14-9), who had 10 of 14 players score, 11 of 14 grab at least one rebound and 13 assists split between nine players. Ben Meola added 12 points and Evan Grosel 11.
“Even though we didn’t win tonight, I think we’ve improved a lot, especially against some tough teams here at the end,” Huber said. “I think, if the kids work hard over summer, good things can happen next season here.”
Kelly is a freelance writer from Jefferson.