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H.S. Boys Basketball: Hamburg salvages third at Lions Tourney after edging St. Francis

St. Francis’ Brennan Macey attacks the basket here but it was Kyle Violanti (left) and the Hamburg defense that made the difference in a win at the Hamburg Lions Club Tournament.

Hamburg was down after a lopsided loss to cross-town rival Frontier in the opening round of the Hamburg Lions Club Tip-Off Tournament.

But the Bulldogs didn’t stay down for too long. Behind an improved defensive effort, they pulled out the tournament’s consolation game, bouncing back to capture a 49-46 win over another rival, St. Francis, on Friday (Dec. 7) at Frontier.

In finishing in third place, Hamburg won the back-and-forth affair with the help of grabbing 16 steals and forcing five charges, which is the most fifth-year head coach Tim Brueckl can ever remember one of his teams taking.

Frontier, which had beaten Hamburg 74-45 just three days earlier, was unable to defend its tournament title falling in the championship game to Lackawanna, 65-59.

“That’s resiliency. They got beat up but then they worked harder the next time,” Brueckl said. “In a matter of a week, they got a good idea of what happens when you don’t play hard enough and what happens when you do...taking that many charges shows your toughness and a willingness to step in there and give up your body.”

Griffin Ryan hit two key free throws down the stretch to account for Hamburg’s winning points and then contested St. Francis’ last second three-pointer, which missed its mark. After a loose ball came back to Brennan Macy, who finished with a team-high 16 points, the St. Francis senior heaved up a three that went into the basket but it was ruled to be shot after the final buzzer.

Ryan, a junior forward, finished with 10 points, five rebounds and three steals. Senior point guard Kyle Violanti recorded nine points, seven steals, four assists and took three of those clutch charges, two early on in the game helping to set a tone.

Violanti added a late-game free throw before the Red Raiders’ final possession. St. Francis called a timeout at half court with nine seconds left to draw up the final play. Violanti also guarded St. Francis’s standout senior point guard Cory Cullen, who finished with 12 points.

Junior forward Jeremiah Bill used his big body in the post to pour in 18 points for Hamburg on 7 of 9 shooting, while senior Andrew Sardinia contributed three points, six rebounds and was a leader of the defensive effort. Tony Guzzetta knocked down nine points, coming on the strength of three makes from beyond the arc. Brueckl said also aiding the solid defensive play were Matt Odre and Tim Kane.

“We weren’t tough enough against Frontier so we challenged the guys. They responded and played great defense,” Brueckl said.

“Anytime you can beat a Monsignor Martin team, it’s a big win,” added Brueckl, whose team opens ECIC Division II play on Tuesday, Dec. 11 against a tough Iroquois squad. “We feel like we owe Iroquois one after they came back to beat us in overtime by two last year in our gym.”

In the final, Frontier fell short of a tournament title three-peat as a 24-12 second quarter run by Lackawanna turned out to be its undoing.

Senior Tyger German erupted for 23 points and junior teammate Alex Licata added seven points and seven rebounds. However, Frontier head coach Gary Domzalski said his team was beat on the boards, did not create enough easy buckets off of its defensive play, shot only 32 percent and committed 17 turnovers.

Elsewhere locally, Lake Shore opened the regular season by holding on for a 63-50 win over rival Eden, behind a combined 42 points from explosive guards Clark Brueckl and Wade Bergum. After being tied after the opening quarter, the Eagles outscored Eden by five points in each of the next two quarters.

Senior forward Ryan Joslyn added 10 points and a team-leading 11 rebounds, while classmate Connor Govenettio added seven points and Matt Vona, four. Also, Bergum, a junior, finished with six assists; Brueckl, a senior, six rebounds and three assists; and Vona, four rebounds and three assists.

Junior guard Brad Palmerton led Eden with 22 points, while classmate AJ Feldman added 14.

Cullen hits last-second shot in Red Raiders’ ECIC/MMAA Challenge win
By Mike Pidanick

The play didn’t happen exactly as St. Francis expected. But the result worked just fine.

With the game tied and time running out, Cory Cullen drove to the basket and scored the game-winner with five seconds left, giving the Red Raiders a 47-45 win over Depew in the ECIC-Monsignor Martin Athletic Association Challenge on Tuesday (Dec. 11)at St. Mary’s of Lancaster.

“It didn’t work out exactly how we drew it up,” St. Francis coach Brian Ferris said. “But that’s what senior leaders do. He’s a captain, he’s one of our best players and he stepped up and got to the bucket.”

St. Francis held a four-point lead after junior David Kennedy completed a three-point play with 4:41 left in the fourth. It looked like that might be enough as the Red Raiders kept Depew’s offense out of sync down the stretch. But eventually the Wildcats were able to get the ball inside to center Mike Lamb for back-to-back buckets, the game-tying score coming with 36 seconds left.

That set the stage for Cullen, who drove from the left side and laid it in for the winner.

“We were just trying to set up a quick double-screen to set up a pick-and-roll with the big man,” Cullen said. “But he jumped it, so I just went backdoor. I got the ball and I had a good lane to drive and finish.”

The victory was a nice one for the Red Raiders, who improved to 3-2 with the win and proved they could get the job done when it mattered most in crunch time.

“It was a game we’ve been looking for,” Ferris said. “We haven’t finished a game like that in a couple years, actually. We made the plays at the end when we had to.”

Cullen and fellow senior Brennan Macey scored 12 points apiece to lead the Red Raiders, who also got 11 points from Treyvon Holness.

Depew was led by Lamb’s game-high 22 points, but no other Wildcat scored more than six.

“That 55 for them (Lamb) is a load and I don’t think there’s anyone that can cover him,” Ferris said. “But I think speeding up their guard play was key for us. We turned them over quite a few times. And our guards were able to handle the pressure and not turn it over. And that was the key, it’s always the key to our game.”

The win was the only one on the day for the MMAA, which dropped five of the seven games in the first two days of the tournament. Olean built a 26-point halftime lead and then survived a ferocious Canisius comeback for a 76-73 win, while Jamestown pulled away from St. Joe’s for a 64-54 victory.

“I love this tournament,” Ferris said. “All the Monsignor Martin teams are here and it’s good to get a nice win at it.”

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