After flying back into town Tuesday afternoon, picking up my car, finishing off the "How The News voted" (finally), and playing in my weekly pick-up game, what was next? Unpack? Unwind? Nah.
Go to a high school basketball game.
I headed to Pioneer at Depew -- which I picked over Timon-St. Jude at St. Mary's -- mostly because I hadn't seen Pioneer and 1,000-point scorer Lucas Haskell yet. I found a packed parking lot and a great spot in the back row of the bleachers with Western New York super-statistician Paul Hutzler and high school hoops fan Brenda, his wife.
There were also some depleted teams, as Depew played without starter Tyler Stephens while Pioneer had just three players on its bench.
Depew was in control of a ho-hum first half, leading, 19-8 after one quarter and 29-22 at halftime. Junior Ricky Coburn became known to me as "sneaky No. 10" after he picked several pockets in the backcourt. Senior Daniel Strebel did a nice job alternating between scrappy (hustle plays) and savvy (quick touch passes to the perfect spot in the post). Anthony Battaglia did some nice scoring, which I knew about. Zach Zmich was a nice presence down low as well as on the defensive end.
The Wildcats were up, 29-16 late in the second quarter, and I had thoughts of heading to nearby St. Mary's. That's when Pioneer senior Chad Metzger knocked down two straight threes to cut the halftime lead to seven.
There was more to come in a third quarter that was worth the price of admission and then some. Haskell hit three threes in the first 3:28 to tie the game at 35-35. Athletic forward Mike Malicki hit a three and Pioneer led, 38-35. A nice Battaglia drive was answered with -- what else? -- a three by Metzger (41-37 Pioneer).
Then Depew decided to answer the three-bombs with some of their own -- Brian Schork for three! Battalgia for three! Zmich added two free throws (helped by a nice lob pass from Strebel) and Depew had a 45-41 lead and Pioneer coach Mike Haskell (Lucas' dad) called timeout with 2:18 to play in the third.
What happens out of the timeout? Another three by Metzger! (45-44 Depew). Back down the floor? A three by Battaglia! (48-44 Depew). The last shot of the quarter? A three by Haskell! He dribbled hard to the left side and got the bounce after a tough pull-up in which his momentum was still carrying him to the left as he released the ball. Pioneer 49, Depew 48 after three quarters.
What starts the fourth quarter? A three by Coburn! Answered by? Another three by Metzger! Further answered by? A three by Depew's Jacob Maryniewski! Are you kidding me? That made it, 54-52, Depew, and Pioneer would never get the lead back.
Battaglia hit a tough fading jumper and -- all together now -- a three-pointer to put Depew up, 60-53, with 4:46 left. The rest of the way, Pioneer's threes stopped falling and Depew used smart possessions to get Zmich to the line (two shots made it 62-55), Zmich for a layup from Coburn (64-57), Strebel off a Coburn feed (66-57) inside two minutes.
A very tough, very nice baseline drive by Haskell made it 66-59 with 1:35 left, but that would be the Panthers last basket -- Depew finished off the clock with a nice game of keep-away for a final of 71-59.
Good thing I didn't leave the game in the first half, huh? Especially when St. Mary's locked down Timon, 45-33.
The second quarter was won by Pioneer, 27-19. The teams combined for 14 threes in the second half, with Pioneer having eight of them -- including seven in the third quarter. Good stuff.
Tonight at 7 I'll get by first look at Alden as they play for the ECIC IV title at Lackawanna. That should make for some good chatter during tonight's live chat.