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JFK puts scare into rival Cleve Hill in boys hoops

If you’re from Cheektowaga, you already have a suspicion how these Cleveland Hill and John F. Kennedy match ups will turn out.

Both boys basketball teams came in on completely opposite ends of the spectrum. However, when these two met at the Bear Cave on Jan. 17, their records meant nothing.

Both teams clawed at each other for 32 minutes as Cleve Hill (10-1 overall, 7-0 in division) survived a 56-50 scare from rival JFK (2-4, 4-6) in ECIC IV play.

“It’s a tremendous rivalry,” said Cleveland Hill coach Jason Przybysz. “They play hard against each other in any sport. Sometimes, this makes or breaks a season. If you can win this type of game; it’s the talk of the town.”

“We sound like broken records, but the records don’t mean anything,” said JFK coach Tony Krupski. “It’s a great team that we played. I think they made just three more plays than us at the end, and that was the difference.”

Cleve Hill was up 30-24 at the half, but saw JFK take a 43-42 lead after Adam Cartenuto nailed a three toward the end of the third quarter.

“We were all ready to excel after that,” said Cale Byczkowski, who scored six points on two three-pointers. “We were really coming together at that point.”

But the lead was short-lived, as Richie Sotero answered with a three-pointer of his own to regain the lead for the Eagles.

“We knew we could get the lead back,” said Jordan Parker. “Our defense wasn’t executing and we weren’t talking. But we settled down and got back in it.”

With the game knotted up at 45 after three quarters, Nick Anderson stood on the court to help get his crowd amped for the fourth.

“He is a gamer and a tremendous competitor,” Krupski said about Anderson, who is almost averaging 17 points and nine rebounds per game. “He logs a lot of minutes because he always has an impact on the game.”

The last tie came at 50-50, when Zak Walkowski took a steal for an easy fastbreak lay-up.

After clutch buckets by Rayshawn Smalls and Sotero gave the Eagles a 54-50 lead, Walkowski’s foot was whistled out of bounds before finding Joey Burkowski for an easy field goal that would have put the Bears within two with under a minute left.

Sotero iced the game with two free throws before “Hill will kill” chants came from the visitors section.

“I knew they would give us a good game,” said Sotero. “This is a big win going into the second half of the season.”

Sotero led Cleve Hill with 18 points. Jordan Parker scored 12 and Jermaine Hairston had 10.

“We started off good, but we ended slow,” said Sotero. “We just had to play our game.”

“This is my third time playing them here, and it’s always an intense game,” said Parker.

Anderson scored 12 points for JFK while Burkowski dropped 11.

Fresh off of its third straight championship at the Maryvale Coaches vs Cancer Christmas Tournament, Cleveland Hill is on pace to repeat as division champions when heading to Alden for its next game Tuesday, Jan. 29.

“To be undefeated at this point is tremendous,” said Przybysz. “To continue to work every single day at practice and have something to improve on is also something we’re looking forward to.”

After this game, JFK had six league games left. They host Holland on Tuesday (Jan. 29) with plenty of time to turn their season around.

“This gives us a lot of confidence for the next game,” said Byczkowski. “It makes us feel like we can beat any other team if we play that good every game.”

Their final regular season game against each other will be at Cleveland Hill on Feb. 12, which is their senior night.


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