MANLIUS — Brad Groleau and his St. Bede Bruin teammates got one step closer to their goal of a regional championship on Wednesday.
Groleau scored 17 of his game-high 21 points in the first half and classmate Joe Pyszka added 19 points on 9 of 10 from the field to lead the Bruins to a 77-40 victory over the Bureau Valley Storm in the nightcap of semifinal play in the Class 2A Regional in Manlius.
Next up for St. Bede (23-5) will be Seneca (24-4 ) for the regional title on Friday. The Fighting Irish defeated Hall 42-40 in Wednesday’s opening tilt.
“We know what happened last year with Fieldcrest,” said Groleau of his team’s regional championship loss last season. “We are a very focused team right now. We are on a mission. We are all ready for Friday.”
St. Bede coach Mike Kilmartin said a regional championship has been on his mind since the day he took the head coaching job two years ago. The Bruins haven’t won a regional title since the 1999-2000 season.
“I’ve been in a lot of regional championship games and been to state many times and there is nothing like it,” said Kilmartin. “I want to do that again and I want to do that at St. Bede. Whether that is going to be possible it remains to be seen. Seneca is good. They have a better record than we do.”
On Wednesday, St. Bede showed when they have both their inside and outside game going at the same time they are a team tough to beat.
Pyszka and Groleau got the Bruins rolling in the first quarter. Trailing 7-5 to the Storm after Frank Gebeck hit a fade-away jumper from the baseline, Pyszka scored on consecutive possessions inside to give the Bruins the lead for good.
After that, Groleau caught fire. The lefty sharp-shooter hit three treys in less than a minute and a half, his last one capping a 15-0 run that put St. Bede ahead 20-7. Groleau hit one more three before quarter’s end, knocking one down from the left baseline with a hand in his face.
“My teammates were looking for me and once I got one down I kept shooting and got a couple more to go,” said Groleau, who finished the night five of nine from behind the arc.
St. Bede outscored the Storm 16-7 in the second quarter to push their lead to 23 at the half. Damin Smith also reached double figures in the opening half, scoring 10 of his 13 points in the first 16 minutes.
“(St. Bede) is a very good team for a reason,” said Storm coach Jason Marquis, whose team finished 18-13 on the year. “They have an inside presence and an outside shooting game. They were pretty hot but we didn’t do much to contest shots early. I think we were a little bit flat footed.”
Sophomores Parker Neuhalfen and Tommy Johnston led the Storm with 9 and 8 points, respectively. Brian Lange, one of 11 seniors on the Storm roster, added 7 points.