By PAUL GOTHAM
GENESEO, N.Y. — For 22-plus minutes Saturday afternoon, Ethan Bennett managed to connect one time from the floor.
Ah, but it’s how one finishes that matters.
The senior guard scored 14 points on the strength of four 3-pointers as the Geneseo boys’ basketball team defeated York in a battle of state-ranked teams, 67-60.
Clinging to a one-point lead, Bennett buried his first triple.
“They always tell me to shoot the ball even if I’m missing, no matter what,” Bennett said of his team and coaches. “I didn’t shoot the ball very much at the beginning, so I came out and was like I got to start shooting more. I came out and made it. That’s when it started.”
Coming out of a timeout with 1:15 remaining in the third quarter, Eghosa Okpefe drew three defenders in the lane and kicked out a pass to Bennett in the left corner.
Eghosa Okpefe finds Ethan Bennett in the corner for 3. pic.twitter.com/wGxG1aBYHJ— Paul Gotham (@PickinSplinters) January 21, 2023
“We put him in that position,” second-year head coach Gregg Hepler said. “But we talked specifically about getting the ball first and foremost in the middle of the zone. We were noticing that they were really clamping down in the middle when somebody got the ball there. We said that opposite would be open and sure enough Ethan was in it. He took it with extreme confidence.”
That basket started a flurry that saw Bennett find the measure from long range on three consecutive attempts. When the three-possession sequence was finished, Geneseo had a lead it did not surrender at 51-44.
Find the hot hand: Ethan Bennett connects on his third three in as many attempts… and as many trips down the floor to give Geneseo a 51-44 lead heading to the fourth. @SecVBBasketball pic.twitter.com/NRCpANQaEW— Paul Gotham (@PickinSplinters) January 21, 2023
“Once he hit that one, I had a feeling because that’s the way he is,” Hepler said. “He catches fire.”
The win, Geneseo’s sixth straight, came after the Blue Devils (t-No. 20 NYSSWA Class C) erased an early double-digit lead.
“We got into a big hole because of turnovers against their 2-2-1 and them getting second-chance opportunities,” Hepler said echoing his message to the Blue Devils between the first and second quarters. “Those are easy fixes. Those are easy adjustments. Once you do that, you’re going to claw your way back into this game.”
Jake Pangrazio scored 11 of his game-high 21 points in the first quarter to stake York (No. 13 NYSSWA Class C) to a 22-11 lead.
“They’re so well-coached and they have so many shooters,” Hepler said of York. “You never feel comfortable. Never once do you feel comfortable against a team like York who can just shoot the lights out.
Oren Ray hit a pair of 3-pointers, and Okpefe got ahead of the defense for layup to tie the game at 26.
Bennett led Ryan Whitney to the basket for a brief edge at 28-26. York’s Tyler Brady finished in traffic to send the game into halftime tied at 28.
“York’s a really scrappy team,” Hepler said. “The way they attack the offensive glass is just amazing. We’ve done a good job on that all year long, but we haven’t played York.”
Pangrazio’s three late in the third put York ahead at 41-40. Three times in the fourth, the Knights made it a one-possession game. Maddox Timothy converted one-of-two free throws to pull Ed Orman, Jr.’s squad within two at 57-55 with 3:22 to go in the game.
Jake Pangrazio buries a 3 for 41-40 York lead. pic.twitter.com/GYjFjGBmbB— Paul Gotham (@PickinSplinters) January 21, 2023
“Geneseo hit the big shots down the stretch in the second half, and kudos to them for delivering when needed,” Orman said via email. “The great news is that it is just a regular season cross-over loss and doesn’t change any of our goals for this season. We will use this game to refocus us and grow in hopes of achieving all of our goals.”
Geneseo’s defense limited York to two free throws over four possessions late in the fourth quarter and pushed the lead to eight at 65-57.
“Our three best defensive stands we were when we had the lead at the very end,” Hepler said. “We just played without fouling but keeping guys in front and contesting everything. I called a timeout because our guys were tired. They were huffing and puffing because they played so hard. Our leadership is unbelievable. It’s about them.”
Ethan Bennett finds Ryan Whitney underneath for two. Geneseo, which trailed 22-11 to start the quarter, takes a 28-26 lead. pic.twitter.com/yfc2UuddS2— Paul Gotham (@PickinSplinters) January 21, 2023
Whitney led Geneseo (12-2) with 19 points. Okpefe added 13. Ray had nine while Kellen O’Brien (7) and Lyndon Bailey (5) rounded out the scoring for the Blue Devils.
Tyler Brady converts the rebound and putback. Tied at 30 early third. York and Geneseo pic.twitter.com/4zgaX6BHxO— Paul Gotham (@PickinSplinters) January 21, 2023
York’s Tyler Brady accounted for 16 points. Timothy had eight. Joe Bauer (6), Connor Rodwell (5) and Ryan Brady (4) also scored for the Knights. The Knights (11-2) entered play winners of 10 straight with their only previous loss coming to Hornell of Class B.
The game was played in SUNY Geneseo’s Carl Schrader Gymnasium.