By STEVE BRICKLER
GLENS FALLS, N.Y. — Eight points allowed in the second half. That’s a solid defensive effort in a half of football. Maybe you would see that occasionally in the pre shot clock era or if the game was pitting two very mismatched teams. But a NYS Class A semi-final basketball game? That’s exactly the gem that Irondequoit produced defensively in the second half turning a 21-19 deficit into a 21-point victory, beating South Side of Section 8 to advance to the state title game with a 50-29 win.
Ryan Heath and Xavier Gissendanner, the Eagles two leading scorers, were held to a combined three first half points. In the second half they exploded for 26 out of the 31 points the Eagles scored.
“Our defense was really good but we needed to get that first rebound and run,” Irondequoit head coach Chris Cardon said when asked what changed offensively in the second half. “We got them out of their zone and got into an offensive flow. We adjusted to a play we never run, we just put it in and it was good for us and we kept at it. I told Ryan and Xavier at halftime that they were held to three points and they’re our leading scorers and we’re right there.”
The first half was a defensive struggle on both ends of the court. Every possession was a battle with hardly a free look at the basket to be found by either team. South Side’s biggest lead in the first half was 4 while the Eagles only had the lead once at 6-5 in the first quarter which finished deadlocked at 9 apiece. Isaiah Ballard and Quinn Vankerkhove kept the Eagles on pace in the first half scoring 8 and 7 points respectively while South Side’s defense forced Heath and Gissendanner into a combined 1-14 shooting performance from the field in the opening half.
“I know I had a sluggish first half, but I stayed positive going into the second half” said Heath after the game.
That positivity resulted in an 8-11 shooting effort in the second half including 12 straight points on his own that turned a 26-24 Eagles lead into a 14 margin that would prove to be insurmountable for the Cyclones spanning the end of the third and beginning of the fourth quarter. Gissendanner went 3 for 5 from the field in the second half including a dunk off of a turnover early in the second half which seemed to energize the Eagles for the remainder of the game.
On the defensive end, the Eagles had the South Side offense out of rhythm all night, but in the second half the Cyclones were completely overwhelmed. The Eagles stepped into passing lanes to tip or steal passes, took numerous charges, forced multiple traveling calls, were first to every loose ball and grabbed every defensive rebound after one shot by the Cyclones. South Side could only muster a single three pointer by Patrick Mullin in the third quarter and another Mullin three pointer paired with a floater in the lane by Josh Garelle for their second half offensive output. The Cyclones shot 3-16 as a team from the field in the second half.
Ballard said of the defensive effort, “Going into this game I knew we were going against a pretty big team, their starting lineup was a bunch of 6-foot-5 guys, but that didn’t intimidate me at all. I just knew I had to use my body more, box out, jump up and grab the rebound. I felt I did that today.”
Mullin and Garelle finished with 9 each for South Side. James Murphy added 7 while James Bivona and Robert Pericolosi each netted two.
For the Eagles, Heath led the way with 19 total points, 18 in the second half, followed by Ballard’s 10, nine each from Gissendanner and Vankerkhove and 3 from Kenyen Lovett. The Eagles (22-4) move on to play Tappan Zee of Section I on Saturday for the Class A title.
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