By JOHN LIKANJE
ROCHESTER, N.Y. – The village of Pittsford, New York unites as one fanbase whenever they gather on the football field or ice hockey rink. However, that changes in every other sport, especially basketball. Friday night at the Rainbow Classic in the Louis Alexander Palestra, on the campus of the University of Rochester, one side of the bleachers was packed with Mendon fans while the other had Sutherland fans.
“This is my 19th year coaching Pittsford basketball,” Mendon Boys Basketball head coach Bob Nally explained about preparing for Friday’s game. “I’ve been in a lot of these and you can never really be prepared.
“Every year is different and every year is tough in its own way,” he continued. “It takes a lot of prep using hand signals because the team cannot hear you out there.”
On the court, students from the same town were playing against each other.
“The kids respect both coaches from both teams,” Nally said. “The kids have a lot of respect for each other, they like each other, and I think it’s a really healthy rivalry.”
On the sidelines, siblings were coaching each team. Bob Nally is the Mendon head coach while his brother, John Nally, is the Sutherland head coach.
“I learned a lot from John over the years,” Nally reminisced about his brother. “Everything I know about basketball, I learned from him. John and I, we coached for 15 years together before I came over and started working on the Mendon side.”
Bob came away victorious in this matchup as the Vikings (4-0/No. 7 NYSSWA Class A) held on to defeat the Knights (3-3), 61-57, to sweep the 18th annual Rainbow Classic after the Mendon girls won the first game, 67-37.
Trailing 55-53 with 2:26 remaining in the game, the Vikings went on a 7-0 run, including the go-ahead shot by sophomore guard Jacob Shadders, to take a 60-55 lead with 15 seconds left. Seniors Daniel Cook, Michael Harrington, and Connor Krapf combined to go 6-for-8 from the free throw line down the stretch. With 7.1 ticks remaining, Krapf knocked down his second attempt from the charity stripe to ice the game.
— John Mitchell Likanje Junior (@jml5798) December 22, 2018
The Vikings had a double-digit lead for most of the first half. Cook scored six of the team’s last nine points of the second quarter for a 37-20 edge, the largest of the game. Cook, Krapf, Shadders, and junior forward Nate Strauf did all the scoring during a 10-2 spurt earlier in the period to extend the lead to 28-11.
The Vikings also held the Knights to seven points in the first quarter and nine in the fourth. Coach Nally’s squad took advantage as they scored 18 and 16, respectively, in those quarters. The Vikings held the Knights without a made field goal for the first five minutes of the game and took a 14-2 lead during that stretch. Trailing 48-45 going into the fourth quarter, the Vikings would clamp down on the defensive end as well, giving up three made field goals on 20 possessions. They also forced 17 turnovers throughout the game.
“We’re typically a great rebounding team,” Nally explained. “We were able to play a little bit better defense. In the first half, things were going our way. We were making shots, they were missing some shots.”
“There’s some tough matchups with the two team,” he said when comparing both teams. “They’re (Pittsford Sutherland) very big and forward-oriented.”
Cook finished with a game-high 19 points. He converted five layups and went 9-for-11 from the free throw line.
“He hasn’t led us in scoring yet until tonight,” Nally said about his starting senior forward. “He’s been coming into this year definitely looking to spread the ball a little bit more. Last year, he averaged 21 points for us. This year, he’s sharing the ball and picking his moments.”
Shadders scored 14 points while Krapf knocked down two three-pointers and five shots from the charity stripe en route to 11.
“Jacob’s great,” Nally complemented about his starting point guard. “He’s a sophomore but he plays like a veteran. He has that confidence within himself that most don’t.”
Harrington (10), Strauf (4), and Charles Bennett (3) rounded out the scoring for the Vikings.
For the Knights, senior forward Kevin Ryan battled in the low post to get his team-high 18 points. Despite having to change jerseys due to blood from a cut above his right eye, he made seven layups and four free throws. In the middle of the third quarter, Ryan scored seven of the team’s 14 points, including the game-tying layup to knot it at 42 apiece.
“Credit to Sutherland for coming out in the second half and having a great gameplan and adjusting and giving us fits,” Coach Nally complemented about the Knights. “We were just lucky down the stretch and we made some good defensive plays to pull it out.”
Senior guard Matt Panara knocked down three shots from beyond the arc and six free throws-both team-highs as well. He finished with 15 points.
John Messina (9), Connor Fitzsimmons (6), Ben DiGiovanni (4), John Luther (3), and Pat Sanna (2) rounded out the scoring for the Knights.
The second edition of this rivalry will take place on January 26 at Pittsford Mendon High School. Game set to tip off at 7:00 PM.