MONTICELLO, NY — Sullivan West junior Matt Cardona loves shooting the three-point shot so much that he spends the lion’s share of his spare time beyond the arc working assiduously on its accuracy. Like the character Jimmy Chitwood, based on Milan High School’s Bobby Pump in the iconic film “Hoosiers,” whose relentless practice paid off in the historic 1954 Indiana State Championship win over Muncie Central, Cardona’s hard work yielded big dividends in Sullivan West’s momentous come-from-behind 58-50 road win against Monticello in the December 16 Jingle Ball Classic, a home-opener fundraiser for the Monticello Toy Drive that netted upward of $250.
Smiles were in no short supply for the Bulldogs, after the startling victory. Cardona hit an uncanny five treys in the fourth quarter as he poured in 18 of the Westies’ 29 points in the period. Back in the day when tiny Milan (enrollment 162) defeated the much larger Muncie Central with its 1,662 students by the score of 32-30 in the David versus Goliath Indiana state title game, there was no such thing as a three-point shot as Plump nailed the final bucket in the storied win. Class B Sullivan West, with its enrollment of 334, is less than half the size of Class A Monticello (819). Upset victories always raise the pulse and this one had hearts a-thumping. By night’s end, the soft-spoken Cardona had posted a game-high 26 points to help propel the under-Dawgs by the stunned Panthers. The game stood in stark contrast to Monticello’s 92-41 mauling of Sullivan West in last season’s cats and Dawgs encounter. For the Sullivan West Bulldogs, who won only one game all of last year and who faltered mightily in their last game against Fallsburg wherein they failed to score in the second quarter, this win was historic and hearkened back to a 2005 SW victory in the Panthers’ Pit when Joe Meyer hit the game winning trey at the buzzer.
Cardona was abetted by 14 from E.J. Franskevicz and 11 from Patrick Pierce. Both figured strongly into the second-half resurgence that overcame a 30-18 halftime deficit as the Westies whittled away at Monticello’s lead. Doing what Sullivan West coach Bruce Nober had preached all week long, namely executing strong defense and making the extra pass to find the open shooter, worked like a charm. Monticello’s inability to close out SW’s long-range shooters and to make key buckets down the stretch spelled its demise as the Panthers fell to 1-3 after a subsequent loss to Washingtonville in Monroe-Woodbury’s Taravella Tournament. With 1:22 remaining in the game, the Monties had a one-point lead and the ball, but junior Captain Rob Riley’s shot rolled around and out. Cardona’s final trey of the night put the Dawgs (2-3) ahead 50-48 and they never trailed again. They hit eight of 10 free throws in the final period to help ice the win. The Panthers were paced by Anthony Gray’s 22 points, along with 20 from Riley. But the most talked-about number from the night was three. Sullivan West had netted nine treys in the win, including two each from Franskevicz and Pierce.
It’s hard to remember a time when the three-point shot was not a part of the game of basketball. Who actually invented the concept of a bonus point for a shot beyond of an arc drawn on the floor, which in high school is 19’9” from the basket, is still a matter of controversy. But its trial introduction in a 1945 college game between Fordham and Columbia was a forerunner of its use in both college and professional basketball. It was used first in the American Basketball League (ABL) before becoming a cornerstone of American Basketball Association (ABA), which popularized it (can you say Dr. J?). The NBA, which absorbed the ABA in the 1979-80 season, sanctioned the trey that year from beyond an arc of 23’ 9”. The NCAA adopted its 19’9” line nationally in 1986. The three-point shot has forever changed the game of basketball, but coaches will be the first to tell you that teams that live or die by the three alone have a short-shelf life against those with a more balanced attack. More to come.
Visit sportsinsightsny.com for ongoing winter sports stories and albums of photos.