Bishop Grimes surges into postseason, but falls to Hannibal in championship game
by luke eggleston
sun staff writer
Although his team’s disappointment was evident Sunday night at Manley Field House, Bishop Grimes boys basketball coach Jamie Evans knew it had a lot to be proud of.
After a mediocre start to the season in which the Cobras meandered to a 5-7 record, the team regrouped. Bishop Grimes capped off the season by going on an 11-game win streak en route to an appearance in the Section 3 Class B Championship Sunday night.
A No. 4 seed in the B-1 tournament bracket, Bishop Grimes dealt an upset to top-seeded Marcellus in the semifinal round and then defeated Westhill in the B-1 championship game.
“This team has been playing with a lot of heart and a lot of determination after we were 5-7,” Evans said. “We turned it around and we started playing more like a team and got everybody involved offensively.”
In the crossover championship, however, the Cobras finally fell to the B-2 bracket’s top seed, the Hannibal Warriors, 59-45.
Bishop Grimes completed its season with a 16-8 record.
Going into Sunday night’s contest, the Warriors’ record was 19-2 and they were ranked No. 12 in the state among Class B teams. They had returned each of the key players from a team that advanced to the New York State Public High Schools Athletic Association Class B Boys Basketball Tournament’s final four in Glens Falls last year. Bishop Grimes lost to Hannibal twice during the regular season.
Nevertheless, early on, the Cobras appeared poised to pull off the upset as they surged to a 9-2 lead with Mike Stone scoring five points and Eric Ball scoring four during the run. In addition, Bishop Grimes drew two fouls on Hannibal’s Brenden Nollet, sending the Warriors’ starting center to the bench for most of the first half.
Bishop Grimes scored 16 points in the first quarter, but Hannibal’s defense clamped down after that.
“Today was a tough day. They threw a match-up zone at us and we couldn’t get anybody else besides Eric [Ball] moving without the ball,” Evans said.
Hannibal’s athletic forward Chad Burridge, the championship MVP, also presented Bishop Grimes with match-up problems. Burridge finished the game with six blocks and a game high 21 points.
Evans acknowledged that his team had problems going inside against Hannibal.
“I wish they’d gone up a little bit stronger but I think we were a little bit tentative. We started falling away and we talked about that at halftime. In the second half I thought we did a better job,” Evans said.
After generating considerable pressure on Hannibal’s perimeter players, Bishop Grimes’ guards got into foul trouble midway through the second quarter, which compounded the Cobras’ problems.
“We wanted to put a lot of pressure on their guards but with the foul trouble we couldn’t do it as much as we wanted to,” Evans said.
The game was not without its highlights, however, as Ball, a senior, capped 1,000 points. He finished the game having scored 1,002 in his career at Bishop Grimes.
“He’s been a great player for me for four years. He’s got a lot of heart and a lot of determination. It’s like he’s got a battery that he never turns off,” Evans said.
Ball led Bishop Grimes with 18 points. Mike Stone followed him with nine.
The Cobras harassed Hannibal with their high-pressure defense early in the game and Hannibal coach Ken Sturges was impressed by their effort.
“I want to compliment Bishop Grimes,” Sturges said. “They put the pieces together late in the season and won 11 straight. They beat Westhill, they beat Marcellus and those are quality wins against very good opponents. They [Bishop Grimes] came together as a team as well and congratulations to Eric Ball, he went over 1,000 points in this game and I was glad to see him do that despite the fact that they lost. You hate to see a kid get 990 so I was glad to see him get it.”
Evans reiterated that he was satisfied with his team’s inspired play during the latter stage of the season.
“That effort’s been there since 12 games ago. That’s helped us on our winning streak. That’s the way we coach. We want them to go hard every time, 100 percent,” the coach said.