By ROB JONAS
TROY – Section 3 champion Liverpool fashions itself after Syracuse University – right down to the orange-and-blue color scheme of its uniforms and its vaunted zone defense.
But when Shenendehowa found some openings in Liverpool's zone, the Warriors had to do something unorthodox for them. They went to a man-to-man defense. And it worked.
Liverpool outscored Shen 18-5 in the third quarter and cruised to a 69-59 victory over the Plainsmen in the Class AA regional final Saturday, March 10, at Hudson Valley Community College.
“Going man-to-man was something different for us,” said Liverpool head coach Ryan Blackwell. “Shen was getting some open threes against out zone in the first half, so we had to make a change.”
“They had to make the adjustment to go to man, and we had a hard time dealing with it,” said Shen coach Tony Dzikas.
Liverpool also made the conscious effort to drive to the basket in the third quarter – something it did not do much of in the first half. The end result was if Liverpool didn't make a shot, it got to the free throw line more often than not.
“(Ball) movement was better in the second half,” said Blackwell. “We started driving to the basket more, and we started making plays.”
Shen made a couple of mild runs at Liverpool in the fourth quarter, but the Warriors made 11 out of their 13 foul shots to maintain a comfortable cushion.
“The score was where we wanted it to be,” said Dzikas. “I think the difference was at the free throw line. They had 18 (points), and we had six.”
Charles Pride had a monster game for Liverpool. The senior guard scored 25 points, including a buzzer-beating three-point shot from beyond the mid-court stripe at the end of the first quarter. He also pulled down seven rebounds, recorded three steals and added three assists.
“He's a really good ballplayer,” said Dzikas. “He had a great shot at the end of the first quarter.”
Alan Willmes Jr. contributed 15 points and nine rebounds for Liverpool, and Nahjeir Johnson added 10 points and two steals.
Senior guard Christopher Hulbert scored 10 of his team-high 17 points in the first half for Shen, including a three-pointer that gave the Plainsmen a 34-32 halftime advantage. Abbas Merchant netted 15 points, and Jake Reinisch chipped in with 10 points off the bench.