By Mike Zummo
The Chapel Field boys’ basketball team trailed the Chester Hambletonians by about 20 for most of the game.
But in the fourth quarter, the Lions made a ball game out of it, closing to within eight points on three separate occasions, but couldn’t get any closer in a 52-44 non-league loss on Wednesday at Chester Academy.
“When your shots don’t fall on those nights, you’ve got to make up for it in other ways,” Chapel Field coach Brad McDuffie said. “And I told them. I said, ‘listen, the one thing we can do is keep working hard and not give up,’ and they did it. And you’ve got to take your hat off to them.”
The Lions opened the fourth quarter trailing the Hambletonians, 44-24, but got two quick baskets from Jonah McDuffie and Noah Swart to cut Chester’s lead to 16 points. After Chester’s Dylan Perez knocked down a 3-pointer to restore 15-point lead, Chapel Field’s Mikey Bonagura scored five straight points, and Swart knocked down two 3-pointers to pull the Lions to within eight points, 47-39 with 2:07 to go.
Bonagura led the Lions with 14 points, while Jonah McDuffie added 12 and Swart scored 11.
“A couple of shots fell (in the fourth quarter),” coach McDuffie said. “As you know, we’ve got a small rotation. So, we stayed in that 2-3 (zone) but we opened it up a bit. We showed them some press, and they struggled with it, but we can’t do that the whole game. People might be watching and be like, ‘why didn’t you press earlier?’ and the reason why is we wouldn’t have any legs. For stuff like that, you pick and choose when you can do it.”
For as good as they were in the fourth quarter, the Lions struggled mightily in the first and didn’t even get on the scoreboard until Jonah McDuffie hit a pair of free throws with 29.5 seconds left in the first quarter, as Chester took a 12-2 lead.
“We just didn’t show up,” coach McDuffie said. “I don’t know if was (not having) school this week, it’s just hard to get going (when you’re not in routine). I think if we show up, we give them a good game. You could see that we can do some stuff.”
The game served as a necessary Section 9 tournament tune-up for both teams. Chester will play in the Class B tournament while Chapel Field will be the top seed in the Section 9 Class D tournament.
The Lions opened the tournament with a 55-26 win over Mount Academy, and was scheduled to clinch a berth in Tuesday’s championship game at SUNY Sullivan.
“We might come into a sectional game and get shocked and all of a sudden you’re down by 10 or 15,” coach McDuffie said. “The way you respond is everything because it’s ‘oh, we’re the favorites’ and then everybody gets tight, you can’t make a shot, and if you’re not ready for that, that’s how upsets happen. So, you have to come into the sectional games, it’s win or go home, and you have to have a steely mindset, and be prepared for everything.”