After struggling a bit with the shooting touch and falling behind early the past two weeks, the Homer Central boys’ basketball team began Section 3 Class A Tournament play looking like it did in the early part of the season.
The sixth-seeded Trojans went 10-for-14 from the field in the first quarter to race to a 23-6 lead before cruising to a 64-42 first-round victory over 11th seed New Hartford Friday night inside SUNY Cortland’s Corey Gymnasium. Homer (14-7 overall) will visit third-seeded Bishop Grimes (15-5) Tuesday in a 7 p.m. quarterfinal round match-up.
Homer started out shooting well and finished 26-for-50 (52 percent) for the game. The Trojans held the Spartans (7-13) to 3-for-11 from the field in that opening quarter and 16-for-48 (33 percent) for the night.
“We did a good job overall with our shooting game,” Homer coach Sean Malone said. “The guys were locked in. We’re really just doing some X’s and O’s in practice. We not doing a lot of up and down as we are trying to keep everyone from getting hurt. We have done a lot of shooting the last couple of days.
“We knew New Hartford had a 3-2 defense that, without their big guy (Frankie Policelli) in the line-up, we could dissect a little bit from the high post. We played unselfish ball tonight.”
Policelli was injured earlier in the season and left New Hartford a big hole on defense and a lot of points offensively.
Bryant Quinlan and New Hartford’s Joe Murray traded buckets in the first 30 seconds before Homer went on a 19-4 run to close out the quarter. Quinlan put the Trojans in front for good at 4-2 and he brought the Homer crowd to their feet with a huge dunk for a 10-4 advantage with 4:55 left in the quarter. Quinlan finished with six points in the quarter. Jacob Rivers added seven points as six different players found the scoring column.
“My teammates did a good job of looking for me on the offensive end,” Quinlan said. “I just did what I do in practice, hit open shots. I give all the credit to my teammates. We played fantastic defense tonight. We boxed out down low and we had a gang-like rebounding effort. We did our jobs defensively. When we do that, we are successful.
“It’s fun”, Quinlan added on 23-6 first quarter run. “When the whole team is locked in, it’s fun to play basketball. We just all come together.”
Homer added to its 16-point first quarter advantage with a 14-9 edge in the second quarter to lead 37-15 at halftime.
While the starters did see some time in the second half, Malone really went to his bench and those guys played New Hartford even in the second half. The Trojans led 55-26 through three quarters.
Rivers finished with 15 points to lead all scorers. Quinlan added 12 points with Stephen Walter contributing eight points.
Ryan Zogby and Connor nelson each scored eight points to pace New Hartford.
The biggest thrill of the night may have come in the final three minutes as Jake Riley, Max Riley, Ryan Angell, Joey Tummino and Ryan Angell came into the game. Jake Riley netted the final eight Trojan points, including a heave from near the New Hartford foul line at the buzzer that found the basket for the final three points of the game. That shot again sent the crowd into a final frenzy as the Trojans won their first sectional basketball game in over 20 years.
“I’ll have to go and dust the record books off to see when we last won a sectional game,” Malone chuckled. “We’re happy with it. We earned a home game.
We played Bishop Grimes recently so I think we can be competitive with them,” he added. “We’ll game plan Saturday and Monday.”
Homer lost 81-70 to the third-seeded Cobras Feb. 7, but the two teams were tied at 62-62 with five and a half minutes left in the game.
“We want to play the best competition possible,” Quinlan said. “Usually when we play the best teams, we bring our best game. We’re looking forward to playing Bishop Grimes Tuesday night.”