News  > Boys Varsity

 

03/09/06

For Athena team and J-Mac, magical memories last forever


(March 9, 2006) — A student in the sea of red that was the Red Raiders cheering section held up a sign reading: “Fairport Basketball: Killing Dreams Since 1927.”

The Red Raiders didn’t kill a dream Wednesday night — the inspirational J-Mac story has too many legs for that to happen; it will continue to inspire people worldwide for years to come, particularly after it is immortalized on the silver screen.

Scott Pitoniac

But the Red Raiders did halt Greece Athena’s magical basketball ride 66-58 in the Class AA state qualifier at the Blue Cross Arena.

While Jason McElwain will spend the coming days sifting through movie offers and a possible invitation to meet President Bush when he comes to Canandaigua next Tuesday, coach Scott Fitch’s talented Red Raiders will prep for the state quarterfinals against Niagara Falls Saturday evening.

Fairport has dreams, too — dreams of winning a state basketball championship. And thanks to precocious sophomore sharpshooter Kyle Downey, who drained six 3s, that goal remains alive for the 21-1 Red Raiders.

While the road to the states ended for the 16-6 Trojans, they shouldn’t be disappointed. They won a sectional title for themselves and their big-hearted coach Jim Johnson. They went further than many expected.

And their season became unforgettable once J-Mac struck a blow for other kids with autism by scoring 20 points in just four minutes in the one and only varsity game of his career almost a month ago.

Heading into Wednesday’s contest, J-Mac Mania remained “Hotter than a pistol.”

A camera crew from the nationally syndicated show, Inside Edition, filmed J-Mac psyching up his teammates in the locker room before the game.

The student-manager-turned-international inspiration scrawled his signature “Stay Focused” phrase on the white marker board, and gave the Athena team a pep talk. J-Mac reminded them how Arcadia, in a similar situation two years earlier, had upset a heavily favored Rush-Henrietta team. He was hoping history would repeat itself.

Just before the Trojans took the floor, J-Mac signed the sneakers of several Penn Yan cheerleaders, then headed back to the tunnel to lead Athena in a jump cheer.

In the other locker room, Fitch, who is following nicely in his dad Jeff’s footsteps, was concerned.

He had plenty of confidence in his team — as well he should — but he also knew Athena had played the Red Raiders closely during the regular season. And he realized Athena was riding a powerful wave of J-Mac emotion.

“We pride ourselves on chemistry and being a close-knit team,” Fitch said. “And I knew the emotion Athena was feeling because of J-Mac had brought them closer together and made them even more dangerous.

“We knew it was going to be a tough out.”

And it was. The Trojans fell behind by as many as 15 in the first half, but clawed back to within six points late in the third before Fairport took control for good. Levar Goff and Rickey Wallace led the charge for Athena with 22 points apiece.

Fairport wound up having a little too much size and a little better outside touch. Downey’s 20 points led the Red Raiders, who also placed Kelly Condello (17 points), Corey McAdam (13) and Cory Magee (13) in double figures.

Downey comes from an accomplished basketball family. His late father, Tom Downey, was one of the winningest hoops coaches in Section V history, while his older brother, Kevin, became one of Canisius College’s all-time leading scorers.

“He’s got good genes,” said Fitch, who knows a thing or two about that subject. “Kyle has come up big in big games all season long for us.”

For the Trojans, the loss brought an end to a marvelous season that won’t soon be forgotten.

A season whose next stop will be Hollywood.

source: http://www.democratandchronicle.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060309/SPORTS0102/603090377/1007/SPORTS