The Falcons took a long trip out to #4 seeded Westwood in their quarter finals matchup of the state tournament, on Wednesday, February 27. After much doubt, it was the Falcons who was prevail regaining the lead late in the fourth quarter and stealing a 50-46 victory.
It was Joe Batelli continuing to lead the way for the Falcons as he tallied 18 points. Followed by Richie Botti who added 12 points, and the rest of the Falcons added single-digits in the upset victory.
J-Town showed no fatigue from their long bus ride early. The Falcons started the game leading 7-2, exciting the small (but loud) student section of Jefferson. That excitement would quickly funnel down the drain as the Cardinals went on a 8-0 run to close the quarter, putting them in front 10-7. The second quarter was when doubt was enabled for the Falcons. Following many miscommunications and poor decisions for the Jefferson, they were left in the dust by Westwood going into half trailing 30-18.
Starting the second half, the Falcons continued to show little life. Through the four minutes, the Falcons still hadn’t recorded a basket in the second half, while the Cardinals added six points, stretching their lead to 18. At this point, junior Matthew Johnson fouled out, giving the Falcons even less hope of reviving the game. However, despite being down a main option in their offense, the final three minutes of the third quarter would be all Falcons, as they closed the quarter on a 8-0 run regaining all the momentum heading into the final quarter trailing by just 10.
Momentum stayed with the Falcons to start the fourth. They continued their run and closed the gap to 38-34. At this point senior starter Paulie Monaco, was also removed from the game for having five fouls. Again when faced with adversity, the Falcons continued to fight. With five and a half minutes left, junior Matthew Moran followed through with the biggest play of the game and his career thus far. He drove into the lane and nailed a tough layup while drawing the foul. After letting out all of his excitement, to fire up the bench and crowd, he continued to make a free throw to conclude the three point play bringing the game to a slim one point Westwood advantage.
Halfway through the fourth quarter both J-Town and Westwood were in the double-bonus (meaning they would get two foul shots on any foul). This slowed down the intensity and pace of the game. Virtually all points scored from this point forward were off of free throws. Fortunately, Batelli, Botti, senior Stefan Tisma, and junior David Hanna were able to combine for more than Westwood, capping a 50-46 win for the Falcons.
“Down 18, with Mattie Johnson then fouling out it looked pretty bleak. I told these guys we’ve always been resilient all year. Matt Moran, and David Hanna gave us a huge lift filling in for Paulie and Bam, and we did what we needed to do to win,” Coach Digennaro commented on the comeback win. “They don’t forget but we will be ready to go and I am excited,” Digennaro commented on the teams rematch against Ramsey.
“It felt amazing to contribute like that. To add seven points in a game I wasn’t even sure I’d play in, felt really great. But that and-one was huge to bring the momentum to us,” Moran stated, on his big bucket and the comeback.
“I feel calm at the line. I needed to hit those to win the game and move on to next round,” Batelli said on his six free throw attempts late game. “I’m excited and I know all my guys are excited too. Last year was a really rough loss, and to lose the way we did sucked. We all are looking forward to seeing them again,” Batelli added, on facing Ramsey again.
In 2018, the Falcons were upset by Ramsey in the state final, off a buzzer beater putback. Needless to say, the determined Falcons are eager to prove a point against #1 seeded Ramsey, as they take them on in the state semifinals on Friday, March 1.