By RJ Walters / Daily News Sports Editor
As published in the Hillsdale Daily News on Feb. 25
Thanks to an immovable object inside, plenty of shooting stars on the outside and a head coach who truly understands the game the Pittsford Wildcats are SCAA East Division champs.
Winning the first 16 games of a 20-game season will lead to those types of achievements and a strong third-quarter carried the Wildcats past league foe Hillsdale Academy 65-43 Tuesday, their 12th win in as many tries against opposing SCAA East squads.
Wildcat head coach Mike Burger said it is a title that every single one of his players deserves fully.
“They buy in to what we do and what we want to do, they work hard everyday. Those kids come to practice and just give a lot of great effort and great heart and it really is about the kids,” he said. “I’ve had success coaching before and it’s not about me, it has nothing to do with me. This is the first league title of hopefully many more but you never know and you treasure the experience and the relationship with the kids and for me that’s what it’s all about.”
Tuesday they were able to overcome an aggressive offensive effort out of Colts senior forward Thomas Lundberg, who netted 18 points, and the return of the Academy’s leading scorer, sophomore Peter Sullivan, who had been out for more than a month with a serious injury to his right knee.
Getting the job done offensively for Pittsford was junior Garet Lee who put in 20 points to go along with nine boards and six other Wildcats scored at least six points.
According to Colts head coach Max Miller, the sheer number of different weapons is what made Pittsford so difficult to hang with.
“They’ve got a lot of shooters and they move well. Garet Lee is tough to stop one-on-one and if you help out they have guys who can make a shot,” Miller said. (Wes Smith) came in and hit a couple of threes and I didn’t even know he could shoot.”
Zach Vanlerberg scored nine points, including two triples and Seth Weber knocked down two 3-pointers en rout to eight points. Cody Krasny also scored eight, Brandon Williams poured in seven, to go with three blocks, and Corey Gamble and Smith both scored six.
Burger said he’s always preaching about how guys don’t have to score a ton of points to be a big time contributors and Tuesday night was a fine example.
“We have a lot of good guys who can shoot and if you’re not on you can pass and there are other ways to contribute,” Burger said. “It’s not always scoring points — it’s about making that pass, getting that rebound, making that stop.”
And making the necessary stops they did indeed, especially in the third quarter.
A pair of Lundberg 3-pointers to go with a triple from Patrick Sullivan had the Colts down just five at the half, but the feel-good effort didn’t last long.
The Wildcats forced a few timely turnovers with its full-court pressure, Smith came into knock down a pair from beyond the arc, and less than six minutes later it was a 47-33 Pittsford lead.
Miller said he was proud of how hard his boys fought in the first half and hopes that a healthy Peter Sullivan can help them put it all together by the time district play rolls around.
Sullivan scored eight points in his first game back, Zach Lefere pitched in with seven and Patrick Sullivan scored five.
During Pittsford’s second-half surge the Wildcats imposed their physical nature, while the Colts seemed to shy away from contact at times. Burger said it’s all part of his gameplan every time out.
“We really try to emphasize physical play obviously and we lift weights in basketball and we try to help out all our sports here in Pittsford. I think it helps for all of our programs to do weight lifting and get after it,” Burger said.
In his team’s quest for a 20-0 regular season Pittsford plays at Tekonsha Friday before finishing up with three games next week.