GFA denies Hyde in rematch in C New England semifinals
Updated 9:28 pm, Friday, March 1, 2013
The Dragons had their season cut short last year in the Class C New England quarterfinals a year ago by Hyde -- a boarding school located in Woodstock -- and watched the Wolfpack run to the title.
The size and style of play between the two boys basketball teams were strikingly similar, and the Dragons were yearning for another chance to exact some revenge.
On Friday afternoon, the Dragons got what they wanted and made the most of it.
Top-seeded GFA broke a deadlock at halftime and pulled away in the second half to defeat No. 5 Hyde 62-50 in the C New England semifinal at Coyle Gym in Westport.
"Coaches generally don't look ahead, but if you ask my team, they've been looking ahead for about six months on this one," GFA head coach Doug Scott said. "It's their style, their ability to match up, and all that kind of stuff.
"This was the one that we wanted to get."
GFA (23-2) -- winners of 17 straight, including the program's first Fairchester Athletic Association title -- will make its first appearance in the final against No. 3 Pingree School (Mass.) on Sunday at 1:30 p.m. at Worcester Academy in Massachusetts.
Forward Sean Obi had 16 points and 12 rebounds, and guard Pat Ryan chipped in 14 points for GFA, which authored a 16-6 run to close the game. Hyde (15-11) got within 46-44 with four minutes left, but the Dragons pulled away, scoring eight straight points.
"It doesn't get any better," Scott said. "We've won a lot of games by having the edge athletically. We didn't have that today. We had to play."
While Hyde had the size to match the 6-foot-9 Obi, with a frontcourt that included 6-8 Ken Grant and 6-7 Christian Ejiga, GFA got help from outside the paint. Some of that help came from forward Zach Baines, who scored 13 points.
"When we were focusing on doubling down on Obi, they kicked the ball to him (Baines) at the free-throw line and he was hitting it," Hyde head coach Thomas Bragg said. "I don't think he missed a shot."
Baines, a sophomore from Stamford, also grabbed eight rebounds.
"That's just our offense," he said. "If we see an opening, then we give it to the person who is open. And we make them count."
For Hyde, Ejiga led the way with 16 points and guard Tyquan Ekejiuba added 11 points.
"It means so much," Baines said of the win. "We definitely came in the game with the mindset of revenge."
The Wolfpack jumped out to a 19-14 lead in the first half with the help of guard Julian Mardenli, who scored 13 of his team's first 17 points. But after knocking down three 3-pointers early, Mardenli started to draw careful attention defensively from guard Matt Tate and was held scoreless the rest of the way.
"He hadn't seen a person face guard him all year and it bothered him. It bothered him," Bragg said. "That was the biggest thing. It bothered him.
"If it had happened more to him this year, I think he would've been OK."
Afterward, Scott praised Tate's defensive efforts.
"Our idea was to deny him the ball," Scott said, referring to Mardenli. "We had to get the right guy doing it. Once Matt Tate took over the job ... he was just getting it done."
GFA trailed by as many as six points in the first half before drawing even at halftime, 28-28. The Dragons fell behind by two points at the beginning of the second half, but jumped ahead 35-30 with a 7-0 spurt.
The Dragons maintained a slim lead for the rest of the second half. Hyde got within two points on five separate occasions later in the half, but the Dragons answered with a bucket each time.
Scott said the Dragons' conditioning -- from running during practice -- played a pivotal part in the win. He credited the team's conditioning coach, Mike Harris.
"That was the difference," Scott said. "They got tired, they had to battle. We were tired, but we kept going. I expected when I played my starters that much, they'd be grabbing their shorts.
He added, "They weren't grabbing their shorts. They kept playing."
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No. 1 GREENS FARMS ACADEMY 62, No. 4 HYDE SCHOOL 50
Fedja Djurisic 1 0-0 3 Christian Ejiga 7 2-2 16 Tyquan Ekejiuba 5 0-0 11 Kenny Grant 3 1-6 7 Rodney Felder 0 0-0 0 Ben Krassner 0 0-0 0 Jesse McKiernan 0 0-0 0 Connor McLaughlin 0 0-0 0 Sam Valentine 0 0-0 0 Julian Mardenli 5 0-0 13 Tim Patterson 0 0-0 0. Totals 21 3-8 50.
GREENS FARMS (23-2)
Van Barnet 0 0-0 0 Brendan Bieder 0 0-0 0 Matt Tate 2 4-4 8 Hunter Eggers 5 0-0 11 Pat Ryan 2 10-11 14 Andrew Chase 0 0-0 0 Sam Hodge 0 0-0 0 Scott Deutsch 0 0-0 0 Zach Baines 4 5-8 13 Sean Obi 8 0-1 16. Totals 21 19-24 62.
HYDE 28 22 -- 50
GREENS FARMS 28 34 -- 62
3-pointers: H -- Mardenli 3, Djurisic, Ekejiuba; G -- Eggers.