The McGraw boys’ basketball team’s fans weren’t the only ones wearing maroon last Sunday in the Carrier Dome as the Eagles shaded Madison 54-53 for the Section 3 Class D championship.
At least a few players and members of the coaching staff from Section 10 champion Harrisville were wearing their primary school color as well, getting a look at their opponent in their next game. The Pirates bring a 21-3 record into the state Class D regional (quarterfinal) contest against the Eagles (18-3), the state’s seventh-ranked D team, Saturday at 1 p.m. inside Onondaga CC’s SRC Arena.
“McGraw has good athletes,” Harrisville head coach Brian Coloney said when asked what he’d found out during Sunday’s long scouting trip. “They play very hard, have quite a few good shooters and look like an all-around good basketball team.
“The key for us all year has been defensive intensity. We basically go mainly man-to-man, full-court at times, and if we need to we can switch to other defenses. We can’t allow McGraw to knock down numerous 3-pointers, and will try to keep them out of transition as best we can.”
The Pirates, ranked eighth in the state in D, won the Section 10 Class D championship back on Feb. 2 with a 76-52 win over Madrid-Waddington. Section 10 has an overall sectional tourney after the enrollment class champions are crowned, and Harrisville lost to Class B Canton 66-59 in the Section 10 title game last Friday.
“They’re a pretty well-rounded team,” said McGraw coach Matt Martins, who has had to rely on game videos and tips from other coaches to learn about Harrisville. “They have four guys who average between 11 and 16 points per game, which is different from Madison, which has three. It’s not as though we can key on just one or two players; we have to be aware that they all have the ability to score, and prevent them from hitting two, three or four 3-pointers in a row.
“From what I gather, they’re pretty much like us. We’ll see man-to-man most of the time, with some zone. That describes us, as well. Offensively we’d rather have it be a transition game. We want to be able to use our bench, which was very good in sectionals. I don’t think it hurts us at all when we run and get more kids into the game.”
Senior forward Trenton Sullivan leads Harrisville in scoring at 15.9 points per game, to go along with six rebounds a contest. Junior guard Peyton Schmitt scores at a 15.3 ppg pace and hauls down nine rebounds per contest. Senior guard Ryan Weaver has been good for 14 points, 4.4 rebounds and 4.3 assists a game, and sophomore guard Jadon Sullivan, Trenton’s brother, has contributed an average of 11.2 points, six assists and 4.8 rebounds a contest.
Senior forward Dakota Stauber is McGraw’s leading scorer at 12. 4 ppg, followed in order by senior guard Kevin Shorts, 11.7 ppg; junior center Chase Curtis, 9.8 ppg; junior guard Maurice Peterson, 9.1 ppg and junior forward Chris Pickert, 7.1 ppg. Pickert has also effectively limited the opposition’s top scorer with his defense in the Eagles’ last two games.
No further individual statistics were available for McGraw. While this is the Eagles’ first trip to the state quarterfinals, Harrisville has won the Section 10 title in three of the last four seasons. After Madison beat McGraw 71-41 for the sectional D title last year the Pirates, with no senior starters, downed the Blue Devils 52-42 in the state quarterfinals before falling to Section 4’s Newfield 65-62 in double overtime in the state semis.
“I don’t know if that gives us an advantage over McGraw, but it helps our guys,” Coloney said. “We basically have the same guys as we did last year; our top seven all returned. They’ve experienced the state Final Four and want to get back there, but aren’t looking past Saturday. We know that the Section 3 champion is usually a good, solid team.
“This team has a calm demeanor. It’s a mentally tough group of good friends who play together year-round. They played 53 games last summer between leagues at General Brown and Watertown. They’ll be focused Saturday because they know it could end, and know that McGraw will be focused, too.”
The fact that the game is at SRC Arena should help his team, according to Martins, whose squad played last year’s sectional semis and championship game and this year’s semifinals (a 65-57 win over Lyme) on that same floor.
“Hopefully it gives our guys some familiarity and something of an advantage, but you never know with this type of game,” Martins said.
“We travel pretty well,” Coloney said of the impending long trip. “It’s always a concern when you play in someone’s back yard. We’ll just play the game we have all year; it’s been successful.”
The same can be said for the Eagles, whose main goal coming into the season was to reach the sectional championship game again, hopefully against Madison with a chance for revenge. Done and done, but can Martins’ squad maintain its intensity?
“Absolutely,” he said. “We’ve gone back to basics in practice this week, dribbling and shooting — especially foul shooting — and things we need to improve on. Rebounding would be one thing; we did well against Madison in the first half on Sunday, but they were better than us in the second half. All five players need to box out and go after the ball.”