By MIKE DeSANTO
ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Seeking its second straight appearance in the Class AA final, the UPrep boys’ basketball team started hot and never looked back, defeating Hilton 61-51 in their semifinal matchup at Blue Cross Arena Tuesday night.
Wasting no time, the Griffins started the game by netting the first five points, but Hilton came back with five of their own to tie the game. This would be the only point in the entire game the score would be tied, and marked the closest the Cadets would get to leading. UPrep responded with 12 unanswered points to exit the first quarter with a 17-5 lead.
Jakhi Lucas led UPrep with 20 points and 10 rebounds for a double-double. Zach Harris Scott also provided UPrep with a double-double performance, collecting 13 rebounds to go with his 10 points.
UPrep kept its foot on the pedal in the second quarter, maintaining a double-digit lead. The Cadets came the closest early in the quarter, as Tah-jae Hill got into the paint and scored a layup at the 7:38 mark of the second quarter, making the score 17-7.
However, just 30 seconds later, Elroy Clark picked up a layup of his own for UPrep, putting them back up by 12.
Hilton kept pushing through the rest of the quarter, but UPrep answered each time and cushioned its lead, heading to the locker room with a 29-14 lead at the half.
The back-and-forth play continued in the third quarter, as whenever one team scored, the other would respond. At the 4:38 mark of the third quarter, Hill caught a pass from Noah Malta and laid the ball in, cutting the deficit to nine points. Joey Lipani knocked down a free throw less than a minute as it appeared Hilton had finally grasped the momentum.
But UPrep kept battling and kept Hilton at bay, going to the final quarter with a nine point lead, 41-32.
The Cadets refused to go down quietly in the fourth, stringing together buckets in an attempt to get back in the game. Over the first six minutes of the quarter, Hilton outscored UPrep 8-1, finally cutting the lead to 44-41 at the 2:53 mark, courtesy of another Hill layup.
However, Hilton would get no closer, as they would be outscored 17-10 to close the fourth quarter, allowing UPrep to secure the win.
The Griffins’ victory sets up a date with McQuaid Jesuit (15-8) in the Class AA final. The final will take place on Saturday, March 3.
Tah’Jae Hill 6-21 8-10 20; Joey Lipani 2-11 1-2 7; Najier Daniels 2-5 3-6 7;
Morgan Kunigan 2-4 0-0 5; Mitchell Carr 1-10 2-2 4; Noah Malta 1-3 1-3 3;
Colin Burkis 1-3 0-0 3; Joey Gombatto 1-1 0-0 2; Jack Gombatto 0-0 0-0 0;
Nick Walsh 0-0 0-0 0; Jackson DiPalma 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 16-59 15-23 51.
Jakhi Lucas 6-13 7-8 20; Elroy Clark 7-15 3-5 18; Z. Harris-Scott 5-11 0-3
10; J.J. Strothers 2-5 2-2 6; Kayshawn Ross 1-10 2-2 4; Christian Edwards
1-1 0-0 2; Kani Lagree 0-3 1-2 1; Justin Martin 0-1 0-0 0; Raymond Rivera
0-0 0-0 0. Totals 22-59 15-22 61.
3-point goals–Hilton 4-18 (Joey Lipani 2-6; Morgan Kunigan 1-2; Colin
Burkis 1-3; Noah Malta 0-1; Mitchell Carr 0-3; Tah’Jae Hill 0-3), UPrep 2-11
(Jakhi Lucas 1-4; Elroy Clark 1-4; J.J. Strothers 0-1; Kayshawn Ross 0-2).
Fouled out–Hilton-Noah Malta, UPrep-None. Rebounds–Hilton 43 (Tah’Jae Hill
12), UPrep 46 (Z. Harris-Scott 13). Assists–Hilton 7 (Noah Malta 4), UPrep
6 (J.J. Strothers 2; Jakhi Lucas 2). Total fouls–Hilton 17, UPrep 22.
Technical fouls–Hilton-Morgan Kunigan, UPrep-None. A-1000