If history has proven anything its that strange things can and often do happen in the Frontier League boys basketball playoffs at Jefferson Community College.
For instance, big underdogs can surprise higher seeds, or huge favorites stumbling to closer-than-expected victories.
Top-seeded Carthage and No. 2 Indian River were both wary of such scenarios after the Comets and Warriors beat their A Division semifinal foes easily in their two regular-season meetings. But both delivered knockout punches Tuesday night, one early and one late, to avoid upsets and set up Saturdays championship game at JCC.
Indian River pulled away in the second half to beat No. 3 IHC, 63-32, in the first semifinal. Carthage raced to a 32-2 lead and coasted to a 61-38 win over No. 4 Watertown.
Carthage won both meetings with Indian River this season, 59-43 on the road and 66-48 at home.
INDIAN RIVER 63, IHC 32
The Warriors allowed the Cavaliers to stay in the game late in the third quarter when Tim Callahans team put the hammer down.
Leading just 33-25 with two minutes left in the period, Indian River (13-4) scored 22 of the next 23 points, pressuring IHC into turnover after turnover, and converting those mistakes into easy hoops on the other end.
Our pressure really hadnt affected them much the first two games, Callahan said. But tonight we were able to get in the passing lanes, get a lot of deflections and then make them pay on the other end.
Junior Shelton Williams scored 18 points for Indian River, while junior Daniel Angelo added 12. Williams said communication on defense was the key to helping his club earn the easy victory.
We really talked and played together, and thats why our defense really got tough the second half, Williams said. Our offense wasnt really clicking, but we got enough easy baskets to make a difference.
Callahan was also pleased with how much effort his team put into a game that figured to be one-sided.
Sometimes you kind of go through the motions, Callahan said. But the kids have been working really hard in practice, and brought that energy to the court tonight.
Indian River dominated the offensive glass and tracked down almost every loose ball available. Callahan also received support off the bench with Carlos Guitierrez scoring nine points and junior varsity promotion Elijah Franklin contributing four.
Different guys have stepped up and given us a lift, Callahan said.
As for a third meeting with Carthage, Callahan said the Warriors must pressure the ball and get some easy baskets. But Carthage is such a good passing team, they can hurt you at almost every position.
Jude Whalen scored nine points and Jude Fusilli had eight for IHC, which finished a disappointing season at 5-12.
Its the same old story for us, IHC coach Mike Delaney said. We turn the ball over more way too much and go on long scoring droughts.
CARTHAGE 61, WATERTOWN 38
The high-flying Comets (16-1), who have won 14 consecutive games, made sure the Cyclones never got any confidence by scoring the first 17 points of the game and holding the Cyclones without a field goal until the final two minutes of the second quarter.
Coach (Jeff Ventiquattro) told us to treat this game like both teams were 0-0, and to wipe the slate clean in the postseason, said Carthage junior Walter Jeter, who scored 18 points. Our mindset was like it always is, play tough defense and that will lead to good offense.
Nine other Comets hit the scoreboard as they shared the ball well and moved the ball as smoothly as they have all season.
We made quick, confident passes tonight, Ventiquattro said. We got good looks because we didnt just settle for the first shot.
Sophomore Peyton McLaurin made the first two buckets, and Jeter added five first-quarter points en route to a 12-0 lead. WHS, meanwhile, missed all 10 of its first-quarter shots and had six turnovers.
Carthage continued to roll in the second quarter, extending the lead to 17-0 before Willie Scott hit two free throws to finally get WHS on the board. Scotts driving lay-up with two minutes left in the half broke a 0-for-20 Cyclone drought from the field.
Weve been working hard on running the break with the pass instead of the dribble, Ventiquattro said. Peyton really sees the floor well, and his development at the point has been one of the reasons weve been so successful.
Jeter said continued defensive pressure and playing unselfish basketball will be the keys to what hopefully is a long postseason run.
We look for each other so well, and weve got five guys that can score at any time, Jeter said. Thats great balance.
Christian Jorden and Siraj Sindhu scored 10 points each for WHS (4-12).