SYRACUSE — Nine ties. 10 lead changes. Plenty of emotion.
That sums up Saturday’s Section 3 Class D boys’ basketball semifinal game between Central Counties League co-champions DeRuyter and McGraw at Onondaga CC’s SRC Arena. It wasn’t until Louie Glisson and his brother Frank Glisson hit free throws down the stretch that the second-seeded Rockets were able to breathe easy in what ended up a 77-72 victory.
DeRuyter (20-3) advanced to this Sunday’s noon championship game at the Carrier Dome against top seed Lyme, now 20-2 and on an 11-game winning streak after a 63-51 win over Hamilton in Saturday’s other D semifinal. No. 3 McGraw, the defending sectional D champion, and fifth-seeded Hamilton both closed at 18-5. The Rockets and Eagles both finished the regular season with 11-1 league records, each winning on the other’s home court.
Lyme is ranked fourth in the latest state Class D poll with DeRuyter sixth, Hamilton 13th and McGraw 14th.
The turning point of Saturday’s CCL interleague scrap came when Eagles senior forward Chase Curtis picked up his fifth foul as Rockets senior forward Louie Glisson drove to the hoop and scored with 3:54 left in the game. After Glisson hit the free throw to complete a three-point play and pull his team to within 68-67, DeRuyter coach Ric Barnes called a timeout. Just 19 seconds later Louie Glisson completed another oldschool 3-point play after a steal by Frank Glisson to give his team the lead for good.
“We switched back to more of a full-court defense, which hadn’t worked in the first half but did in the second, thanks in large part to (senior) Bandon Burdick and (sophomore) Tristan Worlock,” Barnes said. “We were also able to get the ball inside, which we hadn’t done up to that point. Chase is the kind of player — young, strong, tall, jumps well — that you’d rather not go up against.”
“Being without your second-leading scorer and leading rebounder makes a difference,” McGraw coach Derek Allen said of losing Curtis. “I thought a few of his fouls were clean blocks, but they called them. The boys fought strong inside; losing Chase was the difference, but they still fought hard to the end.”
DeRuyter had control for much of the first half, leading 21-15 after the first quarter and by as much as 15 points (at 36-21) in the second. McGraw then came roaring back to close the gap with an 11-0 closing run to trail by just three, 36-33, at halftime.
“We changed up our defense to a 1-3-1 and a triangle-and-two,” Allen said. “We’ve won with defense all year, and played good defense on that 11-0 run. They had been able to get out in transition and make the pace faster than we wanted.”
After sophomore Trey Foster scored the first three points of the third quarter to give the Rockets a 39-33 lead, the Eagles came back to forge ties at 41-, 43-, 45- and 48-all before taking the lead on an inside shot by Curtis. A pair of free throws by sophomore Benjamin Barnes made it a 50-50 game, and seconds later Louie Glisson was fouled and hit both shots to give his team a 52-50 lead. The game was then tied at 52-52 and 54-54 before a late basket inside by junior guard Evan Ignatowski gave McGraw a 56-54 lead heading into the final eight minutes.
A pair of Glisson free throws 1:31 into the fourth quarter gave the Rockets a 61- 60 edge before McGraw sophomore Caleb Smith drove inside to gave his team the lead back, 62-61. McGraw then built four-point leads twice, 65-61 and 68-64, the second on a rebound basket by senior forward Chris Pickert after Ignatowski missed the second of two free throws with 4:15 left.
It was pretty much all DeRuyter from then on. Glisson made the consecutive old-school three-point plays, Curtis fouling out on the first, and Barnes scored inside to give the Rockets a 72-68 lead with 2:52 left. McGraw got to within two twice, at 72-70 and 74-72, before Louie Glisson drained the second of two free throws on two straight possessions and Frank Glisson added the final free-throw point late.
“We made some good stops on defense, scored on the other end and also got rebounds, which they had been doing earlier,” Louie Glisson said. “We did a good job of turning them over and converting on the other end. It’s special to be able to play in the Dome. Not a lot of teams get to do that.”
The Rockets are going to the sectional finals for the first time since 1995, when they won the D2 crown before falling to D1 winner Bishop Grimes in the overall Class D title game.
Barnes led DeRuyter this time around with 21 points to go with six assists while Louie Glisson had 19 points (nine in the fourth quarter), six rebounds and four steals, Gavin Richardson 12 points, Frank Glisson 11 points and seven steals and Trey Foster 10 points. The winners hit 21 of their 28 free throws (to 12-of-16 for McGraw), led by Louie Glisson’s 9-of-12 day from the foul line.
Caleb Smith led all scorers with 23 points for McGraw, Curtis with 17 points and five rebounds, Ignatowski with 13 points, five rebounds and four assists and Pickert with 10 points, six rebounds, five assists and four steals.
Each team started two seniors Saturday. “That was a game between two good, young teams,” Ric Barnes said. “Our battles will continue for a few years.”