Sophomore Greg Paulus’ performance at Manley Field House at Syracuse University on Mar. 2 was one to remember for Christian Brothers Academy. Paulus took advantage of fast-break transition opportunities to score 39 points, leading CBA to a 76-63 win and the Section III Class A championship. Greg and his brother, Chris Paulus, were major forces behind the Brothers’ win.
“It feels great to win. But this isn’t it for us. We set goals this season and we aren’t going to be satisfied until we will at the state level,” Greg Paulus said. “We did a great job tonight, especially Chris. You’ve seen him — he grabs rebounds all over the court. Chris can play with anyone.”
The Brothers and Cougars played an even first quarter in front of the large crowd at Manley Field House. Paulus was double-teamed and pressured throughout the contest by Corcoran. Early on, the Cougars shot the ball well and lead 12-8 with four minutes remaining in the quarter. Paulus hit a three-pointer from the right wing to give CBA a 15-14 lead with 1:02 left. Brothers forward Ben Gaal scored on a layup to end the quarter, spotting CBA a 17-16 lead.
In the second quarter, the Brothers began to pull away. After Corcoran’s Chris Martin’s layup with 4:16 left until halftime gave the Cougars a 22-21 advantage, CBA would not trail the rest of the game. CBA went on a 14-3 run to close the half. Brothers’ guard Dave Fine knocked down a three-pointer to give CBA a 24-22 lead. Moments later, Paulus made the steal and was fouled when he scored. The free throw put CBA ahead 27-22 with 3:34 left.
The Brothers’ defensive pressure was forcing Corcoran into a number of turnovers late in the second quarter. Corcoran’s shooting was off the mark, leading to a number of fast-break opportunities. Paulus picked up another arrant Cougar pass and went end-to-end for the uncontested layup and a 35-25 lead with 16.3 seconds left. Paulus had 22 points at the half. CBA head coach Buddy Wleklinski said Paulus’ steal and basket was brought about by the intense defense by the Brothers.
“We went to the 1-3-1 zone because we were getting beat man-to-man. Once we made the switch, we shut them down,” Coach Wleklinski said. “Greg’s steal and layup to give us a 10-point halftime lead was huge. It changed the way Corcoran came at us in the second half.”
The third quarter was another strong period for the Brothers, as Corcoran continued its shooting woes while CBA moved the ball around. Gaal’s jumper from the top of the circle gave CBA a 45-29 lead with 5:03 left in the quarter. The Brothers’ lead was as big as 18 before Martin’s nice move inside to cut the CBA advantage at 49-33 with 2:48 left.
Paulus again showed why he is one of the best players in the state. After Corcoran had a great basket on offense, the sophomore guard dribbled up court and passed to Gaal on the left wing with two minutes left in the third quarter. Gaal sent the ball back to Paulus, who buried a three-pointer from beyond NBA three-point range, making the shot cleanly through the hoop. Paulus’ three gave the Brothers a 55-36 lead with 1:42 remaining. CBA held a 59-44 lead heading in the final period. In the fourth quarter, Corcoran traded baskets with CBA and was never able to get any closer than 13 points. Chris Paulus’ great pass to a cutting Greg Paulus put the Brothers ahead 65-50 with 5:30 left. Three minutes later, Chris beat the shot clock with an off-balanced layup to put the Cougars away, 72-54.
Coach Wleklinski had high praise for his sectional winning squad. “It’s a great feeling. I couldn’t be any prouder of these kids. We lost three in a row early in the season and we knew we would be ready for the playoff run. This win is very satisfying,” Coach Wleklinski said. “Corcoran is a great team. They beat us by two points the last time we faced them. Chris Martin had his way with us in that game. But today, Chris Paulus was all over him. Chris plays hard each and every game.”
The older Paulus said winning was especially sweet because little brother Greg helped make it happen. “Greg’s been on my team forever, so you just know you can count on him,” Chris said. “It doesn’t get much better to win here.”