To the average fan, third-seeded Portville's 67-39 drubbing of second-seeded Maple Grove in the Section 6 Class C-2 semifinals at Jamestown Community College on Tuesday night might look like an upset.
But all Portville coach Frank Caya had to do was look at the powerhouse teams in the division to know his team was ready to face the Red Dragons, the No. 3 team in the state.
"We showed a lot of people we are more than a one-trick pony," a fired up Caya said after the game. "Going against the third-ranked team in the state, our schedule helped us get where we are. We play in a very competitive league. I am very proud of the guys and the way they responded. They took care of the ball. My point guard is one in a million. Kids like him don't come around too often. He is like having another coach out there."
Corey Wefing of Maple Grove looks for a teammate to pass to during Tuesday night’s Section 6 Class C-2 semifinal at Jamestown Community College. See additional photos at cu.post-journal.com.
P-J photo by Mark Anderson
Caya was referring to senior Zachary Blask, who scored a game-high 20 points, including a 3-pointer with 2:17 left in the game to give him 1,000 career points.
After Maple Grove jumped out to a 5-2 lead, the Panthers went on an 11-3 run to take a 13-8 lead. The run was engineered by Brett Marcellin who scored seven points during the span.
Portville took the lead at the 3:19 mark of the first quarter on a bucket by Marcellin and never looked back.
The Panthers continued to put the pressure on the Red Dragons as Nick Whitcher drained a 3-pointer from the corner and Blask scored on a putback at the buzzer to give Portville a 20-11 lead at the end of the first quarter.
In the second quarter, the Panthers thrived in the transition game as they continually beat the Maple Grove press and scored points in the paint to outscore the Red Dragons 12-5 and build a 32-16 lead at halftime.
"We have been working on breaking the press," Caya said. "We knew Maple Grove was very good with their press, but we have a tremendous point guard (in Blask). We found the opening in the middle and the openings were there. I am not taking anything away from Maple Grove. They are a very talented team, but tonight we were on a mission. The kids played absolutely fantastic."
On the other end, the Red Dragons couldn't seem to buy a basket. With several opportunities on set plays and fast breaks, when Maple Grove wasn't turning the ball over, the shots just weren't falling as it shot just 28 percent from the field.
"The game changes down here," Maple Grove coach Curt Fischer said of playing at JCC. "It's a little bit different venue. There are really no excuses. They played great. Blask was awesome. We got too aggressive. We did things we don't do. Our press isn't to steal the ball. Our press is to just continue pressure on them. All of a sudden, we started jumping all over the place and did things we haven't done all year. We were leaving our responsibility and it opened up those holes. Instead of being patient with the press like we have been, we were going out of our normal area. A good press is a press that doesn't give up a layup and we didn't do that tonight."Sometimes in big games, that happens."
In the third quarter, Blask took over as he scored six points, including a pretty drive in which he used a spin move to shake off a defender and pulled up for a 15-foot jump shot to help Portville build a 44-22 cushion. He later put the same spin move on a defender and instead of shooting, threw a no-look pass to teammate Whitcher under the basket for an easy layup to help the Panthers build a 48-29 lead with eight minutes left.
Also not helping the Red Dragons was the lack of execution on offense, according to Fischer.
"Our theory was the high-low game," he explained. "When we did that, we scored or got fouled. We just weren't doing it consistently. We just didn't stay consistent with that. I feel like our game plan was OK. We just didn't execute. Let's not take anything away from Portville. They are a well-coached team and when you have a leader like Blask, that helps."
Portville will now face Silver Creek in the championship game on Friday for the third time this season.
"We have lost to them twice," Caya said. "It will be a war. That's the game we wanted. We knew it was going to go through us and go through them. We will be ready."
NOTES: Maple Grove's leading scorer was Will Soffel with 12 points, three rebounds and two steals while Graham Soffel had nine points in defeat. For Portville, Marcellin added 13 points and Josh Watson had 11 for the victors.
Watson 4 3 11, Marcellin 6 1 13, Blask 9 1 20, Whitcher 3 0 7, Caya 3 0 6, Giberson 2 2 6, Totals 29 7 67
MAPLE GROVE (39)
Germaine 1 0 3, GSoffel 3 3 9, WSoffel 4 2 12, Goerke 3 1 8, Tampe 1 0 2, Green 2 0 5, Totals 14 6 39
3-point goals: Green, Goerke, WSoffel Germaine, Blask, Whitcher.
Portville 20 12 16 19 - 67
Maple Grove 11 5 13 10 - 39