A matchup between and St. Mary’s was one of the most anticipated basketball games, if not the most anticipated game, in the Long Island CHSAA.
Both powerhouses came into Manhasset Friday evening tied for first in the NSCHSAA. The Flyers were boasting a dominating 12-2 overall record and four game winning streak while the Gaels were clenching an undefeated overall record of 13-0.
Something had to give.
Unfortunately for Chaminade, it was one of those days where they had to fight an uphill battle all the way.
Gone was the Flyers’ extremely spacious Athletic Center home court and all the red and yellow-clad fans that fill it, replaced with a tight St. Mary’s gym where every seat in the packed-to-capacity bleachers was a front row seat more than likely occupied by a Gael fan.
More importantly, the smaller gym translated into a smaller playing court. When coupling the smaller space’s effects on Chaminade’s passing with the tremendously formidable St. Mary’s defense, you get a big offensive problem for a team that is used to airing the ball out.
“There was no place to pass the ball,” Chaminade Head Coach Jim Quinn said after the game. “It might be a little easier to play them on a bigger court, but they are so athletic and their pressure defense is really tough.”
The defense managed to do something that most Chaminade opponents could not – contain center Rich Zoller. The Flyers had to work extra-hard to penetrate the Gaels’ flypaper defense and get the ball to the 6’8” senior, but when they did, Zoller was constantly double-teamed by Gael forwards Charles McCann and Chavaughn Lewis.
The Gaels also managed to draw multiple fouls from Zoller when he attempted his trademark blocks. The big man picked up his fourth less than a minute into the second half. If he was frustrated, he took it out on the basket with an earth-shattering dunk at 5:52 in the fourth, followed up by two more baskets within the next three minutes to finish his night with 6 points.
With Zoeller neutralized, St. Mary’s also managed to hold Chaminade to 6 points via foul shots while they themselves picked up 12 points from the line.
The basket is normally a good friend to senior guard Matthew Gonyon, but not in the cramped Gael gym. Gonyon was able to hit a three pointer at 2:45 in the second quarter and another at 4:33 in the third, but several other attempts found metal. Senior forward and high scorer of the night James McCaffrey also managed to bury a trey at 1:58 in the first quarter and a near-half-court three at 1:12 in the third, but wasn’t enough to lift the visitors.
“We played hard but it was tough, especially when you’re going up against Chavaughn,” said senior guard Kevin Sheehy, who hit a big three pointer 15 seconds into the game to give the Flyers their only lead of the night.
Lewis, who “plays like a guard and a forward,” according to Sheehy, was Chaminade’s main hindrance. He scored 27 points including numerous three-point-plays and one field goal at 7:33 in the second.
“We have to work on our execution,” McCaffrey said, hinting at a rematch in the playoffs. “We knew it was going to be a tough game going in, but hopefully we will get another couple of shots at them.”
The Flyers still hold a one game lead over Holy Trinity in the NSCHSAA league with a conference record of 5-1 and a 12-3 overall record. They will at 4 pm.1 2 3 4 F Chaminade 9 14 9 15 47 St. Mary's 14 20 21 19 74 Chaminade Scoring Statistics Player Position FGs 3PTs FTs Points James McCaffrey Forward 2 2 2 12 Kevin Sheehy Guard 1 1 2 7 Richard Zoller Center 3 0 0 6 John Gallego Guard 3 0 0 6 Luke Colombo Guard 1 0 0 2 Patrick Farrell Forward 1 0 0 2 Christopher Kustera Forward 1 0 0 2 Matthew Graham Guard 0 0 2 2 Justin Winkler Forward 1 0 0 2