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Fairport rally falls short in road loss to Henninger

Jeff DiVeronica
Staff writer

(December 9, 2006) SYRACUSE Fairport got an earful from its coach, Scott Fitch, early on Friday night at Henninger High School.

"You're not ready. Come on!" he yelled in the huddle after the first quarter, when his squad trailed 19-10 against one of the Syracuse area's top teams.

The Red Raiders woke up, all right.

Over the final three quarters they used the type of relentless defense and execution that Section V opponents have grown accustomed to but lost, 58-56, as their comeback fell just short.

Senior center Tyler Launer had a chance to tie it in the final seconds, but his eight-foot baseline jump shot, after a good drive-and-dish by Brian Gebhardt, back-rimmed out as time expired.

"The kids executed great and Ty took a good stroke. It wasn't one of those pull-the-string (shots), where it's short. That's why I told him good job. Sometimes it just doesn't drop," said Fitch, whose club inbounded the ball with 13 seconds left and three-quarter of the court to go, but still got a great look.

"Way too good of a look," said Henninger coach Erik Saroney, whose club made a point to defend the 3-point line and Fairport sharpshooter, Kyle Downey.

JAMIE GERMANO staff photographer


Fairport's Tyler Launer, front, is in position for the rebound, but Henninger's 7-foot center, Ben Cronin, has the reach advantage.

"We weren't going to lose. If they got a two(-point) basket we figured we'd try to win in overtime."

The game was part of the Brooklyn Pickle Classic at Henninger. Downey led the defending Section V Class AAA champions, who won their season opener 77-70 over Wilson on Tuesday, with 21 points and seven rebounds. Senior guard Kevin Borden added 14 points, while Launer had five points and eight rebounds while pounding away all night on Ben Cronin, Henninger's 7-foot junior center.

Launer is listed at 6-6.

Cronin finished with 22 points and 19 rebounds but 6-4 swingman David Simmons also hurt Fairport with 16 points and a few high-rising plays, including two first-half dunks as Henninger's lead grew to 23-10 early in the second quarter.

"Then we started competing," Downey said. "We stopped getting pushed around."

Fairport fought back to within five, 33-28, at halftime but Downey picked up his third foul on a charge just three seconds before intermission.

But the Raiders were unshakeable. They were down just 41-40 with 51 seconds left in the third, but Cronin found Marquis Kirkland for a layup and Fairport turnover led to Simmons' transition putback.

Two quick baskets to start the fourth and the Henninger (3-0) lead was back to 49-40, but Borden answered with a bucket and Gebhardt canned a pull-up jumper on the break and the Raiders were in it for good.

Gebhardt's baseline 3-pointer with 25 seconds left got Fairport to within one point, 57-56.

Michael Johnson then missed the front end of a one-and-one free throw for Henninger and the Raiders called time out with 16 seconds left.

But a defender tipped Borden's pass to Downey, who was making a backdoor cut, and Johnson was fouled and made one of two free throws before Launer's last shot.

"I thought it was in," he said.

His coach was still happy.

"Our fight was good. Our execution was good. We grew up tonight," Fitch said. "That's why we play games like this. Once we finally got over the 'awe factor' of playing against a 7-footer we were fine." 

photograph by JAMIE GERMANO

photograph by JAMIE GERMANO

photograph by JAMIE GERMANO

photograph by JAMIE GERMANO

photograph by JAMIE GERMANO