SYRACUSE — One year ago, the DeRuyter boys’ varsity basketball team watched Lyme celebrate a Section 3 Class D championship inside the Carrier Dome. The very next day, the Rockets began setting the groundwork for the 2019-2020 season.
Saturday, DeRuyter was the number-one seed and waiting for them in the Class D title game at Onondaga Community College’s SRC Arena was the number-two seed and defending Class D champion Lyme.
Holding a 57-54 lead with 1:58 left in the fourth quarter, Riley Glisson drove the lane for a bucket. Tristan Worlock and Trey Foster each added two for two efforts at the free-throw line as the Rockets improved to 24-0 with a 63-54 win over Lyme and their first Section 3 Class D championship since 1995.
“It feels great,” Worlock said after being named tournament MVP based on his 16 point, 12 rebound effort in the title game. “Just to get all this way, 24-0, it’s surreal. We are just going to keep working hard and get to the state finals. One of our goals this year was to only have one loss. We thought we might have one loss along the way so this really is so surreal.”
“This was our revenge season,” Gavin Richardson said. “We really wanted to win this time. This team is really a family. We are all together and we love each other. We really all work together.”
Rockets’ head coach Ric Barnes really explained the difference one year made.
“It’s unbelievable,” he said. “We started working on this last year. It started the afternoon after last year’s loss in the finals. The guys worked really hard. Nobody took any days off. They pushed each other all the time. They treated each other like brothers, even the guys on the bench. That was very important to me. I wanted them to know that whatever happened, their brothers had their back. These guys understood that and bought into it. They kept elevating themselves. Lyme is number three in the state for a reason. They are good. They have some good shooters and some big bodies.We feel fortunate that we were able to come through. It’s an amazing feeling.”
Staying humble is something Barnes wants to do, but he did have a thought about how good this team could be early on.
“I hate to sound cocky, but…,” Barnes said. “After our last summer game I gathered the guys around. I told them if you work hard and take this to heart, treat each other like family, you have a legitimate shot at winning a state championship. This was an easy team to see that with. These guys have been together since fourth grade. It’s not my first go round with this group. We have taught them to overcome adversity and they, obviously, overcome that today. We just have to keep working on going to states.”
This game looked like it would be a cakewalk for DeRuyter in the first quarter. The Rockets took advantage off shooting woes (16 percent) by Lyme to build a 17-3 lead in the first seven minutes. The Indians (21-2) got four late points in the quarter as DeRuyter led 17-8 heading into the second quarter.
Midway through the second quarter, the Rockets had a 25-14 advantage, but they started turning the ball over and missing shots. Lyme went on a 15-0 run. A steal and layup by Kyle Gaumes tied the game at 25-25 with 1:50 left in the first half. Another Rocket turnover and two points in the paint by Tanner Young gave Lyme its only lead of the game at 27-25.
The Indians went up 29-25 before Worlock ended the run with a basket with 39 seconds left in the half. Richardson buried a 3-pointer deep in the left corner to put DeRuyter back in front at 30-29. The Rockets never gave up the lead again. A steal and layup by Frank Glisson with 20 seconds left in the half made it 32-29 at halftime.
“Lyme is a good team,” Worlock said. “They are well-coached and have a lot of great players. They can play hard. We were able to turn it around and get running again in the third quarter. We just worked hard. We were defense oriented last year more so on just one guy. We’ve got a lot of shooters and we are running more. Once again, we are defense oriented and that’s how we got a lot of points in transition off steals. That’s really it.”
“That’s something we work hard on everyday in practice,” Barnes said. “We put ourselves in situations that we are not comfortable in. We always run with the first group always behind. We want them to be able to recover from things like that. This is the second team that we’ve had to do that with this year. Faith (Heritage) was the same way. They were up on us and we came back. It was all about turnovers in the second quarter. We turned the ball over too many times. That’s not something we are used to.”
The first four minutes of the third quarter saw Lyme tie the game at 32-32, 35-35 and 38-38 as Isaiah Wilson went wild from 3-point range. Wilson hit five treys in the second half and finished with a game high 26 points before fouling out in the final 30 seconds of the game. With the game tied at 38 all, Benjamin Barnes gave the Rockets a 40-38 lead and Riley Glisson banged home a 3-pointer from the left wing a minute later as DeRuyter built a 43-38 lead and retook command. The Rockets would lead 51-42 after three quarters.
While DeRuyter stayed in control, Lyme did enough to make things uncomfortable. Tyler Wilson was fouled as he made a layup and added the foul shot to pull the Indians to within 57-54 with 1:58 remaining.
Frank Glisson, Worlock and Foster took care of business as the Rockets sealed the win and celebrated their sectional title.
“That’s no doubt when we put Trey on the line that’s he going to knock them down,” Coach Barnes said of Foster’s free throws. “He’s been shooting very well this year and he’s confident. I asked them in the huddle who wants the free throws and Trey wanted the free throws. You can’t win games without the free throws down the stretch.”
As much as the win meant to the team, the DeRuyter players know it’s just as important to their loyal fans who reveled in the victory as well.
“It means so much,” Worlock said. “Our community is so oriented around our school and our students. We are so lucky to have a community like that. Not a lot of people get that. This is all for them.”
“The fans are great,” Richardson said. “We love them behind us and supporting us.”
While Worlock was the tournament MVP, Benjamin Barnes was also named to the all-tournament team with Gaumes and Isaiah Wilson from Lyme.
Benjamin Barnes had 12 points in the game with Frank Glisson netting 11 points for DeRuyter.
Gaumes added 15 points for the Indians with Tyler Wilson scoring 11 points. DeRuyter will return to the SRC Arena this Saturday for a noon contest against Chateaugay from Section 10 in a NYSPHSAA Class D regional game.
“We have to keep working hard,” Worlock said. “We have to play defense, we have to keep playing our game. If we keep playing to our potential, I don’t think there is a team that can run with us.”
“The biggest challenge now will be familiarity,” Coach Barnes said. “We don’t have a lot of knowledge about the teams we could face. That will be the tough one to prepare for, but we really just have to play our game. That’s all we can do. It’s hard to change anything in a week’s time. We go on to what we’ve taught ourselves and use the abilities that we have.”