News  > Boys Varsity

 

03.16.07

Fairport enjoys no-glitz season

James Johnson
Staff writer


(March 16, 2007) FAIRPORT From the outside, it appeared that Fairport's road to another Section V basketball title would be uphill all the way.

Corey McAdam, the 2005-06 All-Greater Rochester player of the year, and 6-6 AGR forward Cory Magee were in college. The Red Raiders lost four starters in all.

That Fairport would still need the school's gymnasium this time of year, at least from the outside, seemed far-fetched. But Mark Bruce, Kevin Borden, Brian Gebhardt and Tyler Launer, all Fairport seniors, were on the inside of Fairport's program.

"In the beginning I was pretty sure we were going to go far,'' said Bruce, a starting guard. "I'm sure a lot of guys didn't think we'd make it to states.

"But then as the year progressed, we grew more confident, we knew we had a chance.''

The Red Raiders (21-4) not only earned another Section V Class AAA title this winter, but are two wins away from the state's "AA'' public school championship.

This is new ground for Fairport basketball, as none of its previous teams ever made it past the regionals or state quarterfinals.

"I know the belief was that we had no shot,'' said Launer, a 6-foot-6 forward and a first-year starter. "That just gave us the motivation. Getting this far is definitely nice.

"It's great. There have been a lot of great Fairport teams. It's definitely an honor to be compared to them.''

The Red Raiders need to be better than Albany Bishop Maginn (22-3) of Section II during their state tournament semifinal at 12:30 p.m. Saturday. Albany Bishop Maginn is led by 6-foot senior point guard Talor Battle, who scores 27.1 points a game and is a Penn State recruit.

"I do play baseball, too,'' said Bruce. "When I see the baseball team practicing, it's crazy, because I'm still playing basketball.

"We know our roles, everyone is about getting that win. We've played 25 games so it's really nothing new. Just go out on the floor and take care of business, Fairport basketball.''

It is a style without gimmicks and includes very little, if any, flash. And coach Scott Fitch, 113-22 in five seasons at Fairport, has shown the Red Raiders it works.

"He pays attention to the smallest detail,'' said Downey. "We're breaking down stuff that a lot of college teams wouldn't do.''

The Red Raiders rely more on trust and playing as a group, though 6-1 junior guard Kyle Downey clearly is an AGR Player of the Year candidate.

"Last year's team was better but they played Niagara Falls (in the state quarterfinals),'' said Greece Athena coach Jim Johnson. "(This year's Red Raiders) are consistent on the defensive end and rebound pretty well.

"Those are two major factors if you are going to be in games. Kyle is a terrific player, but the other guys have stepped up, too. They play great team defense.''

Opponents have scored an average of 54.3 points against Fairport during the postseason, if Monroe County Tournament games are included. Athena mustered 45 and 35 points against the Red Raiders during a three-week span.

"If you stop a team's offense they can get mad, frustrated and their heart goes right away,'' said 6-2 reserve sophomore swingman David Kozar. "You can really get into their minds, then it's really hard to play a team like us.''

Fairport's defensive play was a work in progress, however.

"It was a struggle because I don't think we were playing as a team, especially on defense,'' said Downey. "The East game (during the sectional semifinals) was a turning point.

"Now everyone is boxing out and rebounding. It's kind of magnified now. Teams just don't know how to beat us, how to score on us.''

It even stays that way when Fitch sends in reserves like Kozar, who is strong enough to play inside and make 3-pointers.

Borden, a 6-2 senior swingman, gives defenses a similar dilemma. Guard Borden with a forward or a larger player, and he can have his way shooting 3-pointers. Use a smaller defender, and Borden can post up near the basket to score.

Bruce and Gebhardt are two of the team's more underrated players. Gebhardt follows rule No. 1 for point guards: Limit, if not eliminate, turnovers. Bruce often draws the assignment of guarding opponents' leading scorer.

"I can put up the points when it's needed,'' said Bruce. "Mostly, I'm a utility guy. I play defense. I rebound. I do a lot of things a lot of people won't do.

"Every kid wants to be the one who scores 25 points with 15 rebounds and 10 assists a game. But once the game gets going, I just want to win.''

So does Downey, one of Fairport's more competitive players.

Rush-Henrietta played good defense to limit Downey to 12 points during the first of four meetings between the teams. Afterward, Rush-Henrietta coaches privately predicted that Downey would not have a similar game against the Royal Comets. They were right.

Downey scored 26, 24 and 14 points with 7 rebounds in Fairport's three other matchups with Rush-Henrietta.

"It's pretty safe to say that he's a Division I player,'' said Fairport coach Scott Fitch. "He has a great stroke. It has no excess movement."

JAMESJ@DemocratandChronicle.com