WHITE PLAINS, NEW YORK -- There was a through-the-night bus ride, a scramble to find their hotel, and a feisty Briarcliff team that awaited Jamesville-Dewitt in its first appearance at the Slam Dunk Tournament at the Westchester County Center. Fortunately, the members of the Syracuse-area power do not rattle easily.
Jamesville-Dewitt defeated Briarcliff 69-54 in the opening round of the tournament on Thursday- earning a second-round match-up with Peekskill, which defeated Cardinal Hayes in its first round game - and showed a resolve that extended past the court. After a bus trip brought them into Westchester County in the wee hours Thursday, a bleary-eyed group had some problems locating their hotel.
"We got in really early, and then there were some problems finding the hotel," said Jamesville-Dewitt coach Bob McKenney. "The kids didn't seem bothered by it (on the court)."
J.D. received 19 points from one of the state's top juniors in point guard Brandon Triche, who battled queasiness throughout the game.
Displaying a soft outside touch and poise with the ball, Triche- who missed most of last season and nearly all of the AAU circuit after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee last December -- was a steady hand. 6-foot-5 senior swingman Mickey Davis contributed 17 points for the Red Rams, while 6-10 senior Nick Pascale, a Colgate signee, added eight points, 11 rebounds, and four blocks.
"I thought we played pretty well," said McKenney. "But I think we're capable of playing better. They're the type of team that gives us problems: they run their stuff and go to the basket."
After a seesaw first half, Jamesville-Dewitt took some momentum into the break. Three-point plays by Triche and sophomore forward Zach Firestone inside of 1:33 in the second quarter put the Red Rams ahead 37-28 at the half.
Seniors Alex Gulotta and Joe Lombardi kept Briarcliff within striking distance during the second half. Gulotta (16 points) got to the rim with regularity, while Lombardi (24 points), a 6-4 dervish who will play baseball at LeMoyne next year, brought great energy, attacking the hoop and creating mismatches defensively with his versatility.
A foul-line area jumper by Lombardi drew Briarcliff to 55-48 with 4:37 in the fourth quarter, but the Bears came no closer.
Jamesville-Dewitt now faces Mookie Jones and Peekskill -- the defending New York State Class A champions -- on Friday at 6:15 p.m. Peekskill trailed for large stretches against Hayes but escaped to seal the meeting with another of the state's top teams in the same classification in the second round.