Weekly Feature



2018-01-03 / Sports

Boys hoops team explodes for 92 points in tournament victory over Lafayette

by JASON NADOLINSKI
Reporter


Clarence’s Jackson Wurtz glides toward the basket for a layup attempt during the first quarter of the Red Devils’ 92-56 triumph over Lafayette in Thursday’s opening round of their annual Holiday Basketball Tournament. Wurtz finished the game with seven points for the victors. 
Photo by James SmerecakPurchase color photos at www.BeeNews.com Clarence’s Jackson Wurtz glides toward the basket for a layup attempt during the first quarter of the Red Devils’ 92-56 triumph over Lafayette in Thursday’s opening round of their annual Holiday Basketball Tournament. Wurtz finished the game with seven points for the victors. Photo by James SmerecakPurchase color photos at www.BeeNews.com Clarence’s boys basketball team rediscovered its winning formula during the opening round of its annual Holiday Tournament, torching Lafayette for 92 points in its 36-point victory on Dec. 28.

The Red Devils were more than happy to take advantage of the many transition opportunities that their pressure defense created, converting steals into layups and other high-percentage chances as they jumped out to a 24-10 first-quarter lead and never looked back. Clarence extended its lead to 46-20 by halftime and went over the 30-point margin by the end of the third frame, 68-37.

“This was definitely a good way for us to gain some confidence back after last winning two and a half weeks ago,” coach Doug Ratka said. “Everyone got in and 11 kids scored, which was great. We just went out, played well and executed at both ends of the floor.”

Steve Kabayiza and Jack Putney shared the team lead for Clarence with 20 points each, with River Reinhardt not too far behind with 16 points. Phil Simkin and Jackson Wurtz just missed out on giving Clarence five scorers in double figures after chipping in with eight and seven points, respectively.

Unfortunately for Clarence, all that additional confidence didn’t help the Red Devils claim the tournament title when they met Lockport in the title game the next day as the Lions pulled out a 58-48 victory to earn the championship.

After opening the game trailing by a 15-10 count that was helped by Lockport’s 7-0 run to start the contest, the Red Devils fought tooth and nail to knot the game by halftime, 22-22. Clarence battled just as hard to maintain that deadlock — the Red Devils actually went on an 8-0 run of their own to start the frame — going into the final stanza, but the Lions found a way to pull out ahead and then hold off Clarence’s bid to get back into contention to close out the game on a decisive 18-8 run.

“That Lockport game was certainly closer than the score makes it seem like it was,” Ratka said. “We didn’t shoot the ball particularly well that night and had some tough turnovers at tough times. We just didn’t have the poise that we needed in order to win that night.”

Reinhardt and Putney, both of whom were named to the All-Tournament Team, led the way for Clarence with 12 and 11 points, respectively.

Clarence entered its tournament hoping to get back on track after suffering losses in its two games prior to the break, including a heartbreaking 51-50 setback to Lancaster on Dec. 22.

The Red Devils led for a good portion of the contest, jumping out to a 13-5 lead at the end of the first quarter that ballooned to 41-30 by the end of the third stanza. But, that’s when Lancaster’s shots started to drop with regularity, which fueled the Legends’ 21-9 run to close out the contest.

Lancaster had four three-point baskets on consecutive possessions during the decisive stanza to help secure the win, which wasn’t a lock until the Legends nailed one final basket with 16 seconds to play in regulation.

“We’ve got to give credit to Lancaster, they never really gave up,” Ratka said. “We had some tough turnovers again and missed some opportunities late — we were up one for a while before they got that go-ahead basket — but they just really didn’t seem to miss at all in the fourth quarter. That honestly might be my worst feeling of loss in all of the games I’ve coached.”

Putney led the way for Clarence with 14 points, while Joe Olivieri added 10 for Clarence, which was looking to turn things around following their 57-49 setback against Jamestown on Dec. 19.

The Red Devils, who trailed 28-19 at the half, struggled defensively in the paint for most of the game. Jamestown’s two key post players accounted for 39 of the Red Raiders’ points, including Marcus Rojas’ 12-of-17 effort from the field that produced a game-high 25 points.

Yet even with Jamestown’s dominance under the basket, Clarence was able to cut the Red Raiders’ lead to two points with about five minutes to play in regulation. In the end, however, there just wasn’t enough time for Clarence to complete the rally.

“It’s always tough to win down there, and their height definitely gave us some problems,” Ratka said. “They pounded the ball inside, and we didn’t help ourselves by not shooting the ball particularly well either.”

Reinhardt led the way for Clarence with 18 points, while Brandon Ferris chipped in with a career-high 11 points off the bench, all but two of which came off three-point shots. Putney added 10 points for Clarence (2-5 overall), which returned to action Tuesday against Newfane in a game that ended too late for this edition.

The Red Devils are slated to close out their week Thursday against Williamsville North, but then has a few days off before resuming play Tuesday at Frontier.

“We’re just taking things day by day and trying to get better every day,” Ratka said. “We’ve been struggling to score a little bit, and part of that is the turnovers we’re committing takes away chances for us to score. Hopefully we’ve learned some things from the game situations we’ve been in so far this year, because we know if we can string a few wins together and turn things around, we’ll show people that we’re better than our record would say we are at this point. The kids definitely have the right attitudes to make that happen.”

email: jnadolinski@beenews.com

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