CANASTOTA – For the first time this season, Canastota’s boys basketball team was at full strength.
The Raiders needed all hands on deck Thursday night at John Dimao Court to hold off a late rally by Herkimer for a 70-63 victory in a Center State Conference crossover.
Edward Brooks scored 22 points and Jake Purdy had 18 for Canastota (6-5). Zarin Martin chipped in with 14 points for the Raiders, who led by 18 points late in the third quarter, before the Magicians (11-2) rallied to tie the game with 1:40 remaining in the fourth. However, the Raiders answered the challenge and pulled away for good over the game’s final 90 seconds to even the season series with Herkimer.
“The first half was the best we’ve played offensively all season,” Canastota head coach Bob Baker said. “We were in a rhythm and didn’t force threes and took better shots.
“We got up 17, 18 points and got complacent. We lost our composure for a while and let them back in the game. (Herkimer) is ranked in the state for a reason. They are a talented team and have heart. They never stopped playing. But, the last two minutes will be something we can build on. When times were tough the tough got going and we played with composure to get the win.”
Derek Newman, who struggled in the first half to find his shooting touch, scored 17 of his 22 points in the second half to help fuel Herkimer’s comeback attempt. Mitchell Scherer had 16 and Josh Wilcox had 12 for the Magicians, who are ranked seventh in the latest Class C State poll.
The biggest lead of the game for Herkimer came at 8-6 after a Scherer steal and layin followed by a Michael Barreto free throw with 3:01 remaining in the first quarter. Canastota answered with a 15-0 run that gave them a 21-8 lead midway through the second quarter. From then on, it was an uphill battle for the Magicians, who trailed by 11 at halftime.
That deficit could’ve been much smaller if the Magicians could’ve been more efficient from the foul line. Herkimer hit just seven of 18 free throws in the opening half, and finished just 14 of 31 for the game.
“You miss foul shots and don’t come out to play, you’re going to lose against a good team,” Herkimer head coach Mark Blask said. “But we’ll use this. It’s the type of game that will help us in February. It was a game against a big school and a big team. It will help us when we start to play sectional ball.”
The Magicians came out strong to begin the second half, pulling to within seven points on back-to-back buckets by Newman and Wilcox.
The Raiders seemed put the game away with 9-0 run midway through the third that gave them a 48-31 lead. That advantage grew to 18 as Sam Evans hit a floater with just under a minute remaining in the quarter, but Newman made two free throws then banked home a shot from the left block to narrow the margin to 14 with eight minutes remaining.
In a frenetic fourth, Herkimer showed what they were made of, going on a 14-5 run in the opening three minutes. Purdy answered with a tip-in to give the Raiders a 59-52 lead, but the Magicians wouldn’t go away, outscoring the Raiders 9-2 over the next two minutes and tying the game on a putback by Wilcox with 1:40 remaining.
Edward Brooks, who came up big all night for the Raiders, tipped in a miss to give the Raiders the lead for good. Two free throws by Jamie Cellamare and three by Martin helped seal the victory for Canastota.
“I let the game come to me,” Brooks said. “Some nights you’re feeling it … and tonight was one of those nights. But, if I’m not shooting well, I just try to find other ways to help the team.”
Martin was also excited that his team was able to play at full strength as point guard Jeff Marsh returned to the lineup after missing the first 10 games with a broken arm. Marsh managed just one basket, but his return allowed others to play at their natural positions, and the Raiders’ offense was as efficient as it has been all season. The return of Marsh allowed Martin to move to his more natural position of shooting guard.
“Our point guard returned from a broken arm,” Martin said. “When we have a true point guard out there it allows our offense to click. Tonight was the most points we’ve scored all season. Herkimer is a tough team. I think when we got up big we relaxed. But, we kept our composure in fourth and it shows a lot to do that against a good team like Herkimer.”
While the Magicians definitely didn’t give their best performance, Blask thought his team proved what their made of by fighting back from such a huge deficit.
“Tonight we did things we don’t normally do,” Blask said. “We were slow on defense, didn’t rebound and missed a lot of foul shots. I give all the credit to Canastota. They earned it and are a good team. But, I also loved the way we fought. But, I wasn’t surprised. I knew we wouldn’t lay down. It’s not the type of kids we have. It’s just not in their DNA.”
Canastota 70, Herkimer 63
Herkimer 8 15 15 25—63
Canastota 15 19 18 18—70
Herkimer (11-2): Derek Newman 9-3 22; Mitchell Scherer 4-8 16; Josh Wilcox 6-0 12; A.J. Rathbun 2-0 6; Adam Kirkpatrick 2-1 5; Michael Barreto 0-2 2. Totals: 23-14 63. 3-Pointers: 3 (Rathbun 2, Newman).
Canastota (6-5): Edward Brooks 7-5 22; Jake Purdy 6-6 18; Zarin Martin 4-6 14; Tanner Walts 2-0 5; Jamie Cellamare 1-2 4; Jeff Marsh 1-0 2; Sam Evans 1-0 2. Totals: 23-20 70. 3-Pointers: 4 (Edward Brooks 3, Walts).