By PAUL LIOTTI
PITTSFORD – Pittsford Sutherland used a quick run to start the game and a stingy zone defense in the third quarter to keep Wilson Magnet at bay and log a 61-53 win over Wildcats in the season opener for both teams Wednesday night.
Four players scored in double-figures for the Knights (1-0) in the non-league matchup. Junior point guard Ben DiGiovanni led the way with 16 points, while returning leading scorer Kevin Ryan and John Luther had 14 apiece. Matt Panara added 11. Wilson junior Brennan Clark turned in a stellar performance in the losing cause with a team high 16 points and 15 rebounds. Malikk Johnson finished with 14 points and Desi Floyd chipped in 10.
Thanks to lights-out shooting over the first three minutes of the game, the Knights ran out to a 10-0 lead and except for one possession midway through second quarter, played out in front. Then in the third quarter, a 17-9 run opened up a tight game and Wilson never recovered.
Despite the early deficit and an onslaught of three pointers in the first quarter – two each by Luther and Panara – Wilson hung around and started to gain momentum at the start of the second quarter. The Wildcats closed the gap to 22-13 at the end of the first stanza and then using a pressure defense and limiting the Knights to one shot on the offensive end, Wilson took its only lead of the game at 28-27 when Davis’ running floater found the bottom of the net with 3:31 left.
But the long-range ball saved the Knights as DiGiovanni and Luther buried two just before half to push the lead to 35-30 at intermission. It was the closest the Wildcats would come to overtaking Sutherland.
“I thought we showed some good resilience after we gave up the lead,” Sutherland coach John Nally said. “The guys didn’t panic and when we went up five at half, I thought we were starting to settle in, especially after Kevin had to sit for such a large portion of the game. He’s our go-to guy, but the other guys picked it up.”
“For it being the first game, I thought we played well. We moved the ball and played great defense,” Ryan said. “Wilson is a very tough team that has a lot of good players. We did a good job with our zone in the third quarter and when they went to a zone in the first we shot them out of it.”
The Knights, who are looking to improve on an 18-4 record from a year ago, needed their full range of outside weapons because Ryan – a 6-6 center and Sutherland’s leading scorer from a year ago (18 ppg) – was saddled with early foul trouble. With Ryan’s playing time cut a little over half the game, Wilson and Clark took advantage of Ryan’s absence, holding Sutherland to one shot on defense, and owning the offensive glass through the first 16 minutes.
“Our first-shot defense was good throughout the game, but we gave up a ton of offensive rebounds which got them back in the game,” Nally said. “(Wilson) is big and strong and (Clark) is a fantastic rebounder. We had our hands full.”
But the Wilson momentum gained toward the end of the first half slipped away in the third, as Ryan started to exert his presence on the inside. His drop-step basket was followed by a conventional three-point play that pushed the lead to 45-35 with 2:57 left. And, when DiGiovanni hit his second three of the game with 1:25 left in the quarter, the lead was extended to 48-35. Johnson’s basket for Wilson got it back to within 11 at 48-37 with 1:25 left and broke a nearly four-minute scoreless span, but DiGiovanni dropped in two baskets to extend the lead 53-39 at the end of the third quarter.
“Sutherland’s good every year and every game is a single-digit game,” Wilson coach Brendan O’Toole said. “Even though we got behind double digits with five turnovers, but we fought to get back in the game. We were getting stops but weren’t finishing them. Late in the game their size hurt us, getting offensive rebounds and keeping possessions alive.”
The difference in the game – aside from the early 10-0 run and the strong zone defense in the third — was the play of Sutherland’s backcourt the balanced scoring. Having four players in double-figures is one thing, but three of those players are guards, which is something the Knights have not had in recent seasons.
“It was really nice to see the scoring from the guard spot, which we haven’t had a couple of years,” Nally said. “They shot the ball very well and Ben (DiGiovanni) did a very good job running the offense.”
Next up for the Knights is a date with two-time defending Class A2 sectional champion Wayne Friday night on the road. Wilson takes on Lyons at Waterloo on Saturday.
|Wilson (53) – Desi Floyd 10, Robert Davis 9, Brennan Clark 16, Malikk Johnson 14, Arthur Wilson 4. 3pt Robert Davis 1. Fouled Out. Robert Davis.|
|Sutherland (61) – Kevin Ryan 14, John Luther 14, Matt Panara 11, Patrick Sanna 2, John Messina 2, Ben DiGiovanni 16. 3pt: Luther 4, Panara 3, DiGiovanni 2. Fouled Out: None|