ROCHESTER — Playing on a big stage like Blue Cross Arena can give any high school athlete jitters.
However, the Lyons boys basketball team brushed off those pregame nerves to conquer their second straight Section V Class C2 championship, downing No. 3 seed Red Jacket 80-66 Friday night.
“I’m not a guy that cares too much about myself,” Lions coach Dean Schott II said. “I’m glad for these kids. Yes, I waited a long time. I would’ve felt worse if we had lost than how good I feel about winning. Now I’m focused on the next step, and that’s the next game. I’m really happy for my guys.”
Lyons (21-2) hit four 3-pointers early on to set the tone. Senior Justice Smith was a catalyst as he finished with a game-high 30 points and 16 rebounds. The 6-foot-5 guard captured tournament MVP honors for the second straight season as well.
“It’s really cool to know that I’m going to go out on the right note,” Smith said. “We still have a lot of business to take care of with the playoffs; we want to win a state title. It’s pretty awesome to win back-to-back sectional championships. Not many people do that.”
“That’s two,” Schott added. “I told him before a lot of things between me and him have gone on, the scoring record — now I told him, ‘You’re going to beat me now, because I didn’t win two championships. I only won one in four years, so he’s got me there. He’s got two MVP’s.
“He’s a way better player than I ever was, and I couldn’t be prouder of him.”
Sophomore Justin Smith chipped in with 19 points, while David Weaver tallied 9 points.
Lyons led 44-30 at halftime, but the Indians would not go down without a fight. The teams traded 20 points in the third quarter, and Red Jacket made things interesting on several occasions.
Leading the way for Red Jacket was junior Chase Rizzo, who finished with a team-high 20 points and 9 boards. Rizzo made the all-tournament team.
“We really pulled it together this year,” Rizzo said. “We graduated a lot of seniors last year. We’ve been going through a lot of coaches lately. We finally got a solid coach (Brian Ellsworth) who plans on staying for a while. He really brought us all together, and he brought us in the beginning of the season that he knows he’s new, but he doesn’t want to wait a couple of years to get to the Blue Cross. He said he wants to do it his first year here, and he gave us everything we needed to do to get here. He led us all the way. We worked with him and he worked with us.”
The Indians kept things relatively close, considering their opponent averaged 90 points a game this season. The 14-point margin of victory was one of the more competitive games the Lions played in recently.
“They’re long,” Schott said in reference to the size of Red Jacket. “They gave us problems with their length. They ran very well and beat us, which had us off balance. We were upset that we were getting beat up and down the court the whole time. I think our lack of defense hurt us on the offensive end, because we were thinking about it too much. Usually you hear the lack of offense hurts your defense; I think it was the other way around for us tonight.”
Red Jacket caps off its season with a 17-6 record, and despite the loss Ellsworth was not downhearted.
“I wouldn’t say it was disappointing,” he said. “Not winning the championship is a tough one, and a little disappointing. We played our butts off, and I don’t think anyone in this place thought we’d play that well against that team. Holding them to under 90 points was the goal. The goal on the other end was to get the offense up a little bit more.
“They’re a very athletic and tough team. They get to the hole, and there’s not a lot of stopping them at the rim.”
The two-round playoff to determine Section V’s Class C representative in the state tournament begins Monday night with Lyons taking on Class C1 winner Finney. The survivor plays Caledonia-Mumford Wednesday.