WEEDSPORT — A win over Tully doesn't erase the ghosts of sectionals past, but the Warriors sent a message to the rest of Section III, Class C that they might be the team to beat.
The Weedsport boys basketball team, which was eliminated by the Black Knights in the section semifinals each of the last two years, dominated Tully in a 80-44 victory Wednesday at Weedsport High School. With the win, the Warriors improve to 9-2.
Jake O'Connor was the Warriors' leading scorer with 18 points. Jeff DeJohn (four 3-pointers) and Jack Benedict both totaled 15 points and Riley Spingler finished with 10.
Two years ago, Weedsport was the No. 1 overall seed when they met No. 5 Tully in the Class C semis. The Warriors, who scored 74 and 86 points in their first two sectional games that year, lost their offensive mojo in a 70-55 loss.
Last season, Weedsport rode a hot regular season to the No. 2 seed in Class C and the Warriors marched to the section semis to face the Black Knights. A deep Warriors roster had no answer for Tully's Jason Phelps that night as the senior dropped 30 points in a 65-49 win.
If the Warriors meet Tully, the 15th-ranked team in the state for Class C, in sectionals again, their dominant performance this time around could provide a boost.
"We feel that in sectionals, especially when you have a lot of seniors, we should be able to go toe to toe with anybody," Weedsport coach Jon Sgarlata said. "I don't know if I'll be looking back to this night, but we might be looking ahead to playing them again. (Tully coach) Ryan Dando's team always gets better as the season goes on and once Tully gets to the playoffs they always jump to a new level. I expect to see them again just like the last couple years."
Neither team had much going offensively in the opening quarter — missed layups were aplenty as the two teams combined for 21 points through eight minutes, with Weedsport holding a 12-9 lead.
The Warriors exploded in the second quarter, outscoring the Black Knights by 25 points to take a 37-15 lead into halftime.
"It's funny ... I talked to coach Dando before the game and we expected (the slow start). We had after school activities canceled Thursday, snow day Friday, snow day Saturday with no practice and no practice Sunday," Sgarlata said. "We're at four days with no practice. That's a long time in basketball to not be in the gym. It was two days to prepare for a state-ranked team, so we expected the two teams to be tight."
The scoring efficiency continued into the third quarter with DeJohn knocking down three 3s as Weedsport built its lead to 30 after three frames. Tully had a short surge in the fourth quarter after a series of fouls on Weedsport, but the Warriors emptied their bench with 3:30 to go and cruised the rest of the way.
While the usual suspects each reached double digits, Sgarlata was pleased with the effort from his bench after starter Mike Procino found himself in foul trouble less than three minutes in.
"Jordan DelloStritto, who has played really well this year, came in and gave us some really good minutes," Sgarlata said. "He gave us some really good minutes in the first half that we needed because we were in a funk. All of a sudden he comes in and gives us two quick buckets, plays good defense and gets three or four rebounds. He really sparked us off the bench."
For Weedsport, whether they need to overcome Tully or one of Section III, Class C's other top notch teams, a potential run in the playoffs requires playing the best at the right time.
"We've got to make sure we don't peak during the regular season," Sgarlata said. "We still have some rivalry games left with Cato-Meridian and Port Byron, so we're trying to practice hard and keep practices intense where we're competing against each other. At the end of the year we just want to be at our best."
Weedsport heads to Fabius-Pompey on Friday.