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Published: March 11, 2006 11:47 pm

SKURSKI: Bazzani finds what he’s looking for

Sports writer Jay Skurski says Niagara Falls coach sees production help in easing Flynn's load

COLUMN: Jay Skurski
Niagara Gazette

All season long, Niagara Falls coach Dan Bazzani has been beating the same drum.

Opposing teams are going to key on Wolverines’ star Johnny Flynn, so the only way NFHS will find success is if other players step up and take some of the pressure off the Syracuse-bound junior.

That’s exactly what happened Saturday night.

Anthony Marshall and Rahshon Tabb took turns burying 3-pointers while Fairport double-teamed Flynn.

More importantly, the Wolverines played like a group that knew where others would be on the court. One player can only carry a basketball team so far.

Need proof?

Look at where Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers are in the NBA standings. Bryant’s arguably the best player of his generation, but the Lakers are battling for the Western Conference’s final playoff spot.

Good chemistry matters in basketball perhaps more than any other sport. It seems the Wolverines have learned that lesson at the most important time of the season.

It wasn’t always like that, though.

Early in the season, it seemed like Flynn was often alone on an island. Some of his teammates stopped and watched his lightning-quick drives to the hoop or pull-up treys instead of moving without the ball or setting picks. They — like so many fans — were mesmerized by his moves.

The opposite was true Saturday night. The Wolverines, led by Marshall at point guard, made the right passes, got to loose balls and generally supported one another. Missed shots were met with a pat on the back, those on the floor were quickly helped to their feet and the Wolverines bench players raced to greet their teammates at every time-out.

Had it been any other way, the Wolverines wouldn’t have had a chance to defend their state title. The Red Raiders were a game opponent, a group that kept Niagara Falls on its toes all night.

In the first half, Flynn had just eight points (good for almost any other player, but for Flynn, well below expectations). Marshall filled in with all 11 of his points before the half. In the final 16 minutes, Tabb scored 12 points, all on 3-pointers.

Bazzani wore a look of satisfaction on his face after the game.

“I didn’t really know how far this team could go,” he said. “But they’ve played well down the stretch.”

When Bazzani speaks now, it’s the team first. Sure, he still answers the same questions about Flynn, but now the contributions of Marshall, Tabb and Kendall Davis are uttered in the next breath.

“I don’t think anyone at the start of the season — including me — expected us to be here,” Bazzani said.

Enjoy it coach. Your team has earned it.