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02/27/03 Fairport escapes Greece Athena in AA semifinals

Trojans keep the pressure on the Red Raiders right to the end

By James Johnson
Democrat and Chronicle

(February 27, 2003) — No need to remind some members of the Fairport basketball team about last season’s disappointing loss in the sectional finals.

“I’ve been thinking about it since we lost,” said Red Raiders forward Eric Snider. “I remember Gates Chili players celebrating. I want it to be us.”

The Red Raiders have their chance to party after holding down Greece Athena on Wednesday to win the Section V Class AA semifinal 58-47 at Blue Cross Arena at the War Memorial.

Fairport (19-3), the tournament’s No. 2 seed, returns to the arena Saturday to play No. 5 East (14-6) in the final at 9 p.m. East stunned top-seeded Rush-Henrietta, 80-70 in the other semifinal.

“It was a killer last year,” Fairport point guard Adam Wale said about his team’s 52-47 loss to Gates Chili in 2002. “It’s in my memory.”

JAY CAPERS

Fairport’s Cory Magee looks for a way around Greece Athena’s Darquinn Johnson in the Class AA semifinal game at Blue Cross Arena Wednesday night. The second-seeded Red Raiders advanced to the finals with a 58-47 win.

One more win and the Red Raiders who return from that team can hit the delete button to cancel that memory.

Wale, a senior, led the Red Raiders back into the finals after he scored a game-high 19 points. He produced 13 of those in the first half, while making three 3-pointers.

While Wale scored from the outside, the 6-foot-7 Snider contributed 12 points, 11 rebounds and blocked 3 shots. Snider had the tough job of bumping and banging with Athena’s strong but shorter forwards Darquinn Johnson (seven points, 13 rebounds) and Nate Jones (nine points).

“Once they get in there they are tough to stop,” Snider said.

Fairport turned a tight game into a 63-46 romp over No. 3 seed Athena (16-6) on Feb. 14 during the Monroe County Tournament.

“It seemed like they were ready for us this time,” said Fairport junior forward Ryan McAdam. “Every play we called they knew what to do to stop it and we weren’t hitting at all.”

Neither was Athena, so the Red Raiders were able to lead 26-23 at halftime, thanks largely to 13 points by Wale.

The low-scoring grind continued for the teams in the third quarter, as the Red Raiders and Trojans scored a combined 18 points. Fairport stubbornly held onto the lead, which fluctuated from one to six during the first half of the final quarter.

“I kept looking back at my assistant coach and asking, ‘When are we going to get a basket?’ “ said Athena coach Jim Johnson. “We’d hold them without a basket for a few possessions, but I’d look up at the score and it would be the same.

“It’s hard to get good looks at the basket against them. Defensively, we did a good job, but I think in the second half we shot 30 percent (27.3 percent).”

Athena never cut its deficit under seven points during the final three minutes. Johnson, McAdam and Wale made 4 of 6 free throws in the final minutes to seal the win.

“We play a lot better basketball when we’re doing well on defense and we’re hitting our free throws,” McAdam said.

E-mail: jjohnson@DemocratandChronicle.com