SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC News) — It was a one-point game after the first quarter, tied up at halftime and a two-point lead for ITC after three quarters. But Solvay boys basketball stayed the course and used a 20-12 fourth quarter to propel themselves to a 50-44 victory Saturday at Corcoran High in the Fifth Annual Syracuse Invitational Basketball Showcase.
The win improved the Solvay Bearcats to 1-2 (1-2 in the Onondaga High School League ) and dropped the Institute of Technology Central to 2-2 (2-1 in OHSL).
Junior forward Jeff Sharpe III led Solvay with 16 points on 6-for-15 shooting and nine rebounds. He served as a primary ball-handler and playmaker and was named the most valuable player after the game for the Bearcats.
“It felt good [to win] especially after two tough ones to open [the season] against two very experienced and good varsity teams,” Solvay Head Coach Jim Rolince said.
“For [my players] to overcome the adversity that they did and really stay together, we had a couple of tense moments there, some ugly moments there,” Rolince said, “But that kind of shook them out of the funk they were in and it would be good for their confidence to know that they can stick together through hard times and come out on top.”
One notable moment of adversity came roughly midway through the third quarter. The Eagles had opened up a four-point lead, 30-26. ITC had been full-court pressing the entire game and off a timeout, the Bearcats inbounded against the press but thought that they were attacking the basket that they attacked in the first half. Solvay scored on its own hoop, and thus ITC was rewarded with the basket to make it 32-26 Eagles.
After that though the Bearcat defense intensified, led by senior guard Nicholas Commisso Jr. He was hounding the Eagles’ ball-handlers up the floor and made it difficult for them to simply initiate the offense. Commisso had two of his team’s eight steals in the contest.
“He doesn’t get too high, he doesn’t get too low. He’s a great teammate. He builds guys up, he’s that consummate point guard that you want to have, that leader out there,” Rolince said.
Commisso and the Bearcats’ defense held the Eagles scoreless for the rest of the third quarter, but Solvay still trailed 32-30 entering the 4th.
The Bearcats fought back and took the lead, 39-37, at the 4:50 mark on a three-pointer from the left corner from guard Ikeem Vaughn.
A bad pass turnover from ITC’s Antwan Aiken, the MVP for his team, at the 2:35 mark gave the ball back to Solvay who still led by two points, 41-39.
The Bearcats ballooned the lead to 45-39 after Aiyden Geigel hit a short turnaround shot in the paint and Luis Mojica Jr. was left alone for a layup. The Eagles missed two free throws across that stretch as well.
It was 48-42 with 1:10 remaining. ITC put on its full-court press once again, but just like the team had been doing all game, Solvay had no problem beating it. This time, the Bearcats beat the press for a wide-open layup by Vaughn. ITC missed two triples on its possession with under 30 seconds to play and that officially ended the ballgame.
Vaughn finished with seven points in 18 minutes off the bench. More importantly, though, he had a team-best +10 plus-minus, that is, Solvay outscored ITC by 10 points during the time that he was on the court.
“He hustles, he plays hard, to be honest, we have a lot of guys who could be in the game at that moment [in crunch time],” Rolince said. “He was taking care of the basketball. He was getting to open spots. And he knocked down that three when he had the opportunity.
“Ikeem just happened to be the guy whose turn it was [to play big minutes],” he added.” He had the opportunity and he took advantage of it.”
Solvay plays next at Oswego on Tuesday at 6:45 pm. Meanwhile ITC tips off next vs. Christian Brothers Academy also at 6:45 on Tuesday.