By PAUL GOTHAM
ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Chants of “This Is Our House! This Is Our House!” rained down from the Irondequoit student section.
After the Eagles performance this season on Jeff Fitch Court at Fairport High School, who can question them.
Tournament MVP Gerald Drumgoole paced four in double figures as Irondequoit stormed out to an early lead and never trailed en route to a 61-44 victory over the Greece Athena Trojans in the Class A1 championship.
Drumgoole netted a game-high 17 points on 7-of-8 shooting and corralled 12 rebounds to lead the Eagles to their first sectional title since 2011 when Irondequoit beat Athena 61-38 in the AA2 finals – the Eagles only post-season victory over the Trojans in eight previous tries.
“My team believed in me that I could put the ball in the basket when they needed me,” Drumgoole said. “I put the ball in the basket, and they were there cheering me on.”
As has been the case all season with Irondequoit, four different players scored in the first quarter. Front court mates Alex Goldsberry and Jeremiah Zitz combined for 10 points in the first eight minutes.
— Paul Gotham (@PickinSplinters) March 5, 2017
Goldsberry’s back-to-back rebound and putbacks gave Irondequoit a double-digit lead as the Eagles went into the second stanza leading 17-5.
“This is the moment that they wanted to get to, and they worked hard in the off-season and all year for it,” 31st-year Irondequoit coach Chris Cardon said. “We just felt that we had one guy too many for them size-wise. Who’s going to guard Jeremiah? Then who’s going to guard Alex? And who’s going to guard Gerald?”
Irondequoit grabbed their largest lead of the first half when Tysean Sizer stepped in a passing lane for a steal and went the length of the floor a layup and one.
— Paul Gotham (@PickinSplinters) March 4, 2017
“I’m really proud of them,” Cardon stated. “This is a real team. They showed it tonight. We always have guys who step up on this team.”
Athena made a run early in the third quarter. Ryan Kubanka scored seven points and his catch-and-shoot three from the left wing made it a 31-27 game with less than two minutes remaining in the third stanza.
“They made a run, but they made some tough shots too,” Cardon noted. “We’re fortunate that we weathered the storm a little bit. I wasn’t surprised with this team. I have a lot of faith in them.”
Drumgoole scored a pair of buckets to start the fourth quarter when he slipped a ball screen, and Zach Stenglein led him in the lane for two. He followed with a another from underneath. A pair of Freddie June free throws later, and the Eagles lead was 10 at 41-31.
But the the Trojans did not go away.
Nigel Scantlebury got in the lane for two. Kenny Speed nailed a 3-pointer from the right corner to fetch a timeout from the Irondequoit bench.
Nigel Scantlebury gets Athena on the board. pic.twitter.com/lbfywQ6YYh
— Paul Gotham (@PickinSplinters) March 4, 2017
The Eagles came out of the break and ran a set to Drumgoole who backed down his defender in the lane.
“We tried to isolate him a little bit because we just felt there was a mismatch,” Cardon explained. “If the big guy had him, he’s too quick. The other guys have him, he’s too big. He’s tough to stop inside and outside. He can shoot the three. He’s very versatile.”
Drumgoole finished in the lane with a baby hook.
“Coach put me in the corner,” Stenglein said of the play. “They were face-guarding me out there. They couldn’t stay with Gerald one on one.”
Irondequoit pushed the lead back to double digits when Stenglein led Drumgoole on a leak out.
Stenglein, who averaged 13.1 points and 6.4 assists per game during the regular season, finished with four points and two assists.
“They did a really good job on Zach, but Zach didn’t panic,” Cardon noted. “All Zach wants to do is win. A lesser guy might try to force up stuff, but he’s just a total team guy. He helps us in so many other ways.”
Irondequoit needed overtime to beat Athena, 53-49 on February 8th. Goldsberry hit two free throws 7.2 seconds remaining in overtime to clinch the win. The Eagles didn’t need extra-time on Saturday.
“There weren’t many adjustments,” Goldsberry said. “We watched film. We went over their plays. We had a good scouting report. We came in more hungry than they did, and we outplayed them.”
Irondequoit outrebounded Athena 41-35 and outscored the Trojans in the paint 30-16 and on second-chance points 14-8.
“We knew we had the advantage because we have three big guys,” said Zitz who scored 13 points and grabbed six rebounds. “They have two. We just went out there knowing if we wanted to dominate, we could dominate. That’s what my guys went out and did.”
Sizer scored 11. Goldsberry added 10.
Scantlebury led Athena with 14. Speed had nine. Kubanka and Meisenzahl scored seven apiece.
Athena (19-4) needed overtime to beat Irondequoit, 71-65 in the A1 semi-finals a year ago.
Irondequoit (21-1) handed Fairport (20-1) its only loss of the season when Drumgoole scored 24, and the Eagles won on the road 67-63.
Irondequoit suffered its only loss of the season to Victor on January 18th. It was the first game Stenglein missed with a high ankle sprain.
Irondequoit will play the A2 champion, Wayne on Wednesday.
Goldsberry, Sizer and Stenglein joined Drumgoole on the All-Tournament team. Nigel Scantlebury and Chad Scorse represented Athena. East High’s Windell Lucas rounded out the team.