MANLIUS — Hall coach Mike Filippini has been calculating his strategy for three weeks for a potential regional matchup with top-seeded Seneca, willing and able to run as much time off the clock as the Red Devils could to shorten up the game. On Wednesday, it almost worked.
In the end, Seneca (24-4) made just enough free throws (11 of 12) in the fourth quarter to negate a three-point barrage by Hall (8 overall, 5 in the fourth quarter) to hold on for a 42-40 win to advance into Friday’s championship game against St. Bede (23-5).
“I’ll take two-point wins all day. They don’t have to be pretty, they just have to be Ws,” said Seneca coach Russell Witte, formerly of Hall.
The Red Devils (11-17) trailed 18-10 game at halftime, but rallied to tie the game midway through the third quarter. And even though it trailed by six, Hall elected to hold the ball for most of the final 3 1/2 minutes of the third quarter.
“Seneca is more talented than we are and we felt that was the best way to stay in the game,” Filippini said. “It was 42-40, and I know we lost, but if we would have had one more timeout or got one more steal and possession, you don’t know what happened. We’ve been practicing that for three weeks.
“The kids executed the game plan perfectly. It’s hard to do, it’s nerve-wrecking. They were taught to count to three and dribble, and moms and dads are yelling, ‘dribble.’ And we don’t want them to listen to their parents. We wanted them to do what we told them to do and I thought the kids did a great job.”
Witte didn’t mind Hall pulling the ball out, because he thought it took them out of the flow of their offense.
“I thought they were a little bit better ballclub when they were moving,” he said.
Hall senior Brett Fanning, who led all scorers with 26 points, hit three threes in the fourth quarter, two in the final minute to make the final score a little closer than it was.
The turning point in the game came before the great delay. The Red Devils outscored the Irish 11-3 to start the third quarter, tying the game at 21 at the 4:30 mark on Danny Nolasco’s second trey in the run.
The Irish got a momentum stopper with Carter Gallick hitting a three and stealing the inbounds pass and handing the ball to Brian Bergeson, who converted a three-point play from the free-throw line to regain a 27-21 Irish edge.
“That was basically the game right there, but in a two possession game there were plays in the first half that we could have made and there were plays in the fourth quarter we could have made,” Filippini said.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better group of kids to coach. We went through a lot this year with different players leaving and what not, but those kids who stayed with us are a great group of kids. I couldn’t be prouder of their effort and they almost pulled out the No. 1 stunner.”
Notes: Fanning surpassed Rollie Himes (1,209) on Tuesday to become the No. 2 all-time leading scorer, finishing with 1,238 points. While he said it’s great to reach that milestone, “I’d give up anything personally to win regional. I’d give up 1,000 points to win a regional definitely.” The only player ahead of him on the Hall list is 1998 Class A Player of the Year Shawn Jeppson (1,829). “I’m a long ways behind. That’s pretty cool to be up there with my neighbor. My dad always tells me he played basketball with my brother and stuff. That’s pretty cool.”