The Manchester Central boys basketball team found themselves in an unfamiliar position on Friday - playing in the 7th place game of the Queen City Invitational Basketball Tournament. Central has won the tournament a whopping 23 times, and have been in the championship game three years in a row prior to 2016.
But this is a much younger, inexperienced Little Green squad. They return just 1 starter and 1 key reserve from last year D-I championship team. Still, this Central team (coached by new head coach David Keefe) has enough speed, offensive firepower and defensive tenacity to compete with most teams in D-I.
Led by sophomore guard Osiah Lewis, junior wing Kyler Bosse and sophomore guard Eric Curtijo, Central cruised past Dover 62-50. The Little Green extended their lead to 10 early in the 2nd quarter, they led by double digits for the majority of the rest of the game. The outcome of this contest wasn't in doubt during the 2nd half.
Bosse made a good drive and hit a tough leaner early on. Curtijo followed that with a strong drive and finish. Central junior point guard Antoine Revere made a good pass to Lewis for a layup and a quick 10-3 lead for the Little Green with 4:10 left in the 1st quarter.
Revere drained a 3-pointer off the catch from the left wing. That made it 13-5 Central with 3:06 left in the opening frame, forcing Dover first-year head coach Matt Fennessy to call a timeout.
Out of the timeout, over sophomore wing Ty Vitko ran the floor hard, got the ball in transition and made a strong and-1 finish. Curtijo answered back for Central with a steal, taking it in for the layup. Curtijo is fast, athletic and plays with a lot of energy.
Dover really picked up their defensive intensity in the final minute of the 1st quarter, taking Central out of any rhythm they had offensively, getting deflections and forcing a couple of turnovers. If they played 'D' like that all the time the Green Wave could compete with pretty much anyone in D-I. Only problem is, Central already had 17 points on the board before that last and they scored 16 more in the 2nd quarter. The Little Green led 17-10 after 1.
Revere crossed over and buried another 3 ball early in the 2nd quarter, making it a double digit Central lead, 20-10. Dover junior guard John Cantwell made a good move, racing with the ball from 3/4 court all the way to the rim, making a spin move into the lane before finishing strong in traffic. Vitko drained a 3 and teammate Bryce Reilly converted a put-back. Dover was showing some life, now only down 24-17.
Just when the Green Wave were building some momentum, Revere connected on another 3-pointer, this one from the left wing and using a quick release. Then Revere drove and this time dished it to Curtijo for a layup, a 7-0 Central run and a 31-17 Little Green lead. Dover junior guard Devin Cady connected on a 3 from the left wing, and it was 33-20 Central at halftime.
Give Dover credit, because although it was a rough 1st half they actually outscored Central in the 2nd half. They just dug themselves too big of a hole to climb out of. Plus, Central played their bench for most of the 4th quarter.
The Green Wave opened the 3rd quarter with a nice play, as big man Ben Raineri zipped a nice entry pass to the post for big man Griffin Young who turned and scored inside. More good ball movement for Dover, as Cantwell dished it to Cady for a layup. Then Cantwell made another nice dish to Cady, this time setting him up for a 3-pointer from the left corner. The Green Wave had cut the lead back to under 10, it was 37-29 Central with 4:11 left in the 3rd quarter.
Bosse made a strong take and finish, and the Little Green were on top 45-34 after 3 quarters.
Dover started the 4th quarter off with more good passing, as Nick Yerardi found Ryan Coleman for a layup. Bosse made another strong take and finish for the Little Green to keep them ahead. Cantwell made a nice steal, taking it all the way in for a layup. Dimitri Moore-Case brings a lot of energy off the bench for Central - he took a charge.
Coleman buried a 3-pointer from the left wing - Dover battled until the end, cutting the Central lead to 55-50. However, Central ended the game with a 7-0 run. Moore-Case and Yansel Reyes both made layups during the run, and the Little Green win it 62-50.