By PAUL GOTHAM
ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Eight seniors dot the Pittsford-Mendon boys basketball roster. On Tuesday night, though, it was a 10th-grader who made the difference.
Connor Krapf netted 12 of his team-high 17 points in the second half, and the Vikings held off the Webster-Thomas Titans, 55-48 in the opening round of the 2016 WABO Classic.
Krapf scored eight of Mendon’s 14 third-quarter points as the Vikings took a seven-point advantage into the final stanza.
“We’re a senior heavy team,” Mendon coach Bob Nally said. “Being a sophomore he likes to defer to those guys. He’s up, and he’s starting for a reason. It’s nice to see him gain confidence.”
After converting a pair of free throws, the 6-0 guard got in the lane for a pull-up jumper. Two possessions later, he was fouled in the act of shooting and knocked down two more from the charity stripe. Krapf capped the quarter getting into the teeth of the Thomas defense and scoring in traffic.
Mendon led 44-37.
“This is going to be a big one for him,” Nally added. “He now knows that he can compete, and that he’s part of the offense. The last week in practice we’ve certainly been trying to get him more looks and more confidence.”
Krapf put an exclamation point on his performance in the final minute of regulation. With the Vikings lead having all but evaporated, Krapf once again went to the bounce and weaved his way through Webster’s defense to give Mendon a two-possession edge at 52-48.
“Being a lefty and having him on that side of the court really allows him to catch and attack and get in the gaps.,” Nally explained. “He took advantage of if today.”
Ryan Mason paced Thomas early with seven points and two assists as the Titans opened the contest scoring on five of their first nine possessions to grab a 12-4 lead.
Nally took a timeout, and Mendon went on to outscore Thomas 19-2 through the midway point of the second quarter.
“Really it was just to settle the guys down a little bit,” Nally commented. “Things just weren’t going our way. They were knocking down shots. We were dropping the ball. We were a little hesitant. When guys make shots on us, we try to get them right back instead of sticking with the game plan and staying poised. It was really to burn a 30 (second timeout) and say ‘all right let’s go. Let’s get back to the game plan. We’ll make shots. Let’s move. Let’s share the ball and attack when necessary.'”
Seniors Taylor Genier and Matt Powers combined to score 17 points in the run to give Mendon a 20-14 lead with 6:33 to go in the half.
Mendon’s defense forced eight turnovers in the second quarter and took a 30-22 lead in the locker room.
Thomas nearly turned the tables on the Vikings. The Titans switched to a 1-3-1 defense in the second half and knotted the contest with less than three minutes remaining.
“The 1-3-1 hurt us in the second half,” Nally stated. “We got really stale with our offense. Couldn’t find anybody at the high post. They got out quick on the corners. That hurt us. That hurt us a lot.”
Mason and Colin LaBarbera connected from behind the arc on three straight possessions early in third quarter to pull Thomas within two at 33-31.
But Mendon recovered to push their advantage back to eight.
The Titans rallied again and looked ready to knot the game when LaBarbera fell to the floor injured. The junior guard left the game with 50.2 seconds remanning in the third and did not return.
“You could just see him getting in a rhythm,” Thomas coach Griffin Coles said of his player prior to the injury. “Everybody else was following suit off him. Then he went down. It’s either you pack ‘em up and fold ‘em or you respond, and the kids responded.”
Will Johnson fed Tyler Curtis in the lane for a bucket. Mason knocked down a step-back jumper from the free throw line. After Krapf hit a runner in the lane, Mason tied the score with a pull-up three just inside three minutes to go in the game. It was the last basket Thomas scored.
“We put ourselves in a situation to possibly take the lead or win the game,” Coles added. “That’s all I can ask.”
Mason led all scorers with 23 points. LaBarbera added 13.
Genier and Powers scored 11 apiece for Mendon. Winston Bennett chipped in with eight points and eight rebounds.
The Vikings (6-1) will meet Edison Tech in Wednesday’s championship. A 7 pm tipoff is scheduled. The Inventors topped Franklin, 78-69 in Wednesday’s opener.
Thomas (3-4) will take on Franklin in the consolation game. A 5 pm start time is slated.