Mendon rides big 4th to opening night win

Mendon’s Michael Harrington lines up a shot during second-half action Wednesday night. The senior guard finished with a team-high 18 points. Athena’s Johnny Salone defends on the play.

By PAUL GOTHAM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. Rose Ann Marks and Billy Ward once crooned “You Can’t Keep A Good Man Down.”

The 1953 hit, covered by several performers since then, peaked in the Top 10 of the R&B charts that year but didn’t make the play list Wednesday night at Greece Athena High School.

It didn’t matter.

Pittsford-Mendon’s Dan Cook played to the tune’s theme.

The All-County performer who averaged 21 points and 11 rebounds per game a year ago found little room to move during the first three quarters. A Greece Athena half-court zone defense limited the 6-foot-6 forward’s touches.

The result was five points on three free throws and one field goal through 24 minutes of play.

“Toward the end of the game I was getting a little rattled that I wasn’t scoring very much because they were face-guarding me and stuff,” Cook said after Mendon’s 65-61 win. “Coach (Bob) Nally and Coach (assistant Jeff) Amoroso told me to be patient and let it come to me. It all just happened to work out.”

Cook netted 10 of his 15 during the fourth quarter when the Vikings erased a six-point deficit to pick up a win in Monroe County Division III action.

“They were playing the zone which is tough to get your big involved,” Mendon head coach Bob Nally explained. “They were sagging in on him. He was frustrated about that. It was tough.”

The senior captain scored eight straight early in the stanza. His two free throws cut the margin to two. He followed with a rebound and putback after contact for a traditional three-point play. Mendon led 53-52. It was their first lead since 29-27 early in the third quarter.

“Obviously, he’s a big part of our team,” fellow Viking Jacob Shadders said. “We got to establish him for sure. It’s all about finding him. Sometimes, you get off to slow starts. You just got to establish yourself, and we picked him up and found him in the post.”

Cook followed with another old-fashioned three-point play before finishing a catch-and-drive from the free throw line for a 58-56 Mendon edge.

 

“I saw a little opening in the lane, and I had to go to my classic spin move,” Cook said. “It worked out well.”

Shadders took over from there. In a quarter which saw nine lead changes – including swings on seven straight possessions – the sophomore guard knotted the game at 61 with a free throw. His drive and finish from the wing with less than a minute remaining gave Mendon a lead it did not surrender.

 

“The possession was a little all over the place to start it,” Shadders said of the eventual game winner. “We got to our go-to play – Rip. It was a wide-open lane, drove the ball. It was there and I took it and finished.”

He converted a pair of free throws with 1.5 seconds remaining to seal the victory.

“We have so many guys who can score the ball, but Jacob is one of the guys who in a tight game I want him to have the ball in his hands,” Nally said. “I know he can shoot it. I know he’s great finishing it with either hand at the rim, and I know if he doesn’t have that option he’s going to find the guy who can. I want the ball in Jacob’s hands all the time. He plays well above his years.”

The Vikings grabbed their largest lead of the game midway through the second quarter.

Connor Krapf hit a 3-pointer and followed four possessions later with a pair of free throws for a 17-11 advantage. The Vikings still had that margin at 20-14 when Nate Strauf hit a pair from the charity stripe.

But Athena extended its defense and forced four Mendon turnovers in the third quarter. Back-to-back 3-pointers from Melvin Council, Jr. and DeAndre Newsome gave the Trojans a 47-41 advantage (their largest of the game) heading into the fourth quarter.

 

“We got stuck in the second half, Nally noted. “We were moving the ball well, but we’re better when we’re aggressive and taking it to the hole. We had to get out of some (set) offense and just push it, push it and attack the rim. That’s where we’re a threat. We can hit threes, but tonight for the most part the threes weren’t dropping. The transition was what got us going.”

Michael Harrington led Mendon with 18 points. Krapf added 16. Shadders scored 12, and Strauf added four. Cook also finished with 15 rebounds.

Council paced Athena with 21 points – the second straight performance of 20 or more from the junior. Kelvin Reaves, Jr. had 18. Newsome contributed 12. Austin Brown (3), Jake Cerone (3), Isaiah Brock (2) and Johnny Salone (2)  rounded out the scoring for Athena.

 

Mendon (1-0) host Brighton on Friday, December 14th. Athena (1-1) hosts Brockport this Friday.

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