by BRYAN EVERSON
No one said that the game that wins you a championship has to be as exhilarating as the feeling itself.
Methodical as the team’s offense all season long, Stoney Creek outlasted — and outmuscled — Rochester in a 42-28 win Friday night to capture the first district title in boys basketball school history.
“That’s what we’ve been doing all year, grinding games out,” Stoney Creek coach Steve Norgrove said. “We’re not as talented as most teams we face, but our guys do a great job of executing and following instructions, and they’ve all bought in.”
“Our goal this season wasn’t to go 20- 0, it was to go 1-0 20 times. Tonight, we accomplished our goal, went 1-0, and we were just fortunate for it to be in the district championship.”
After falling behind 6-0 out of the gate, the Cougars sealed up their interior defense, and the buckets became extremely tough to come by for Rochester, who fouled to put Nate Davis (11 points) at the line for free throws at the end of the first quarter that gave Stoney its first lead.
Buckets for each side continued to be difficult to come by, but Stoney, who led by three at halftime, slowly widened the gap. The tell-all sequence of the contest came in the third quarter when the Falcons were resigned to defend a possession that extended for a few minutes by way of offensive rebounds and Stoney’s cycling of the ball that ended in senior Even Becker splashing a 3-pointer for the Cougars with 3:08 on the clock to make it a six-point game.
Stoney maintained its lead of six entering the fourth quarter, one that felt magnified in a game where the points proved so hard to manufacture.
“We’ve been in grind-it-out games like this all year, and we’ve been pretty good defensively keeping team’s point totals down,” Norgrove said.
“I thought we did a good job sharing the ball and really spreading them out in the second half.” “I thought in thefirst half, we got away from [playing inside-out] a little bit, dribbling the ball a little bit too much on the perimeter. In the second half, I thought we started attacking the paint, and you saw our offense open up a little bit.”
Becker found Drew Kell in the corner for a 3 to open the scoring for the Cougars in the final quarter, setting off a 14-5 run that included several trips to the line. While the Falcons enjoyed just eight freethrow attempts, Stoney finished 18-of-26 from the charity stripe.
Becker, who finished with a gamehigh 15 points, including 7-of-8 free throws, said that playing at home ended up being a plus for Stoney. The district host was originally Utica, but high winds caused a power outage earlier in the week that forced a change of scenery.
“It was just incredible,” Becker said.
Hunter Schattler finished with a team-high eight points for Rochester, who end the season 11-11, but will return a majority of its key players next year.
Stoney, meanwhile, continued to roll Monday night behind 20 points from Michael Melaragni with a 53-39 win over Linden that helped equal the team’s win total of 19 from last season.
“Last year’s team taught us how to act when we’re here,” Norgrove said. “We were in the district final last year and couldn’t cap it off. That group left a great legacy, and the guys coming up carried that legacy.”