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Beecher uses big second quarter to get past Ithaca, heads back to semifinals

By: Jeff Dullack, March 22, 2016, 10:54 pm

Troy – While Flint Beecher may not have gotten out to the start it wanted to early on in its Class C quarterfinal against Ithaca, just about everything else went as planned for the Buccaneers on Tuesday night.

A slow start offensively in the first quarter had Beecher trailing 6-5 just over six minutes into the game, but the Buccaneers took over from there, outscoring Ithaca 30-9 in the final nine minutes of the first half as the defending Class C state champions cruised to a 72-45 win.

Beecher coach Mike Williams said that he wanted his team to be patient in the first quarter and added that his team’s defense throughout the second quarter allowed the Buccaneers get out in transition offensively.

“A lot of our offense is predicated on our defense,” he said. “When we play good defense and we’re able to get out in transition, we can get easy baskets. Offensively, their game plan was to slow us down, pack it in the paint and keep us from getting to the basket, so I wanted our kids to be patient. Especially in tournament games, the first quarter is, a lot of times, a feeling out process and sometimes you can lose the game in the first quarter or sometimes you can win the game in the first quarter, or you can just feel each other out.”

In a span of just 90 seconds, Beecher turned a 6-5 deficit into a 15-6 lead at the end of the first quarter after a 3-point play from Jamari Thomas-Newell and a triple from Aquavius Burks.

Beecher (23-2) kept the pressure on to start the second quarter, scoring 13 of the first 16 points of the frame, behind five points from junior Malik Ellison and four points from Levane Blake.

Blake said that they key to his team’s first half success was its defense.

“Our coach was telling us that they (Ithaca) had a big kid, who’s a football player and if he gets the ball inside, we’re in trouble,” he said. “That was our main focus in this game, don’t let him get the ball. But the moments he got the ball, he made the right play, so if we knew if that was going to happen all game, we were going to be in for a fight.”

Ithaca (25-3) would battle back in the third quarter after facing a 22-point deficit early in the third quarter and managed to cut the deficit down to as low as 11 late in the third quarter after a 14-6 run, capped off by a 3-point play by Spence DeMull and another basket by Joey Bentley to cut Beecher’s lead to 43-32.

Ithaca coach Jim Thompson said that after Beecher opened up the second half with an alley-oop, he was happy with the way his team responded, cutting the lead in half.

“Their first play of the third quarter was an alley-oop and slam dunk and a lot of teams would have popped the tent and folded and went home,” he said. “I think that we did play with some inspired energy, we had it down to 11 with the ball and just like that, it goes to 15. But there’s no quit, kids at Ithaca don’t quit, there’s 13 good kids on that bench.”

Beecher’s Malik Ellison responded by scoring the final four points of the third quarter and the Buccaneers used that momentum to pull away in the fourth quarter to advance to the Class C semifinals for the sixth time in seven years.

Burks finished with a game-high 19 points and Ellison added in 18 points in the win for Beecher.

Williams said that while his team is happy to be returning to the Breslin Center, the Buccaneers aren’t satisfied with just getting to the semifinals anymore.

“It’s a great feeling, but the bottom line is we’ve got two more games,” he said. “We’ve got 64 minutes left to finish what we set out to accomplish at the beginning of the season. We would like to say that we’re happy to be down there (at the Breslin Center), which we are, but the bottom line is at Beecher, the standard is to win state championships.”