Ray earns 1,000 career points, Falcons clinch NE8 share

Feb. 12 – JEFFERSON – Without a doubt, Jefferson’s eldest, Bobby Ray, dreamed of scoring 1,000 points in his high school. He also dreamed of the day he would participate in a net-cutting celebration to commemorate a league title.

However, Ray would probably never have imagined that he would realize both of his dreams in the same night.

With the verdict settled, looking for point number 1,000, Ray missed the second of two free throws. However, he grabbed a rebound kept alive by Chase Pascarella and returned his shot through the same net he would help cut minutes later.

It gave him 1,001 points in his career, but far more important to him was just icing on the cake as the Falcons beat Poland 66-44 to clinch a share of the Northeast 8 conference on Friday night at the Falcon gymnasium.

“Oh my god, that’s a great team win,” Ray said after his turn with the scissors was over.

“I wanted nothing more than to cut those nets. Looking at Sam Hitchcock and the guys before I did it, that’s all I wanted to do, that was cut the nets, all I wanted to do was was to score 1,000 points. I couldn’t buy a bucket there tonight, I was fighting for everything.”

Offensively, Ray scored 13 points.

He had just eight points through the first three quarters, but put in hard work defensively and on the glass of a championship-hungry player.

Ray finished with a game-best 14 rebounds for four assists, three steals, and a handful of blocked shots and angled passes that led to outings the other way.

Jefferson trailed 14-12 after the first quarter, but then the defense took over and the Falcon shooters were spot on.

Jefferson had seven of eight shots and had a 10-0 run to open a 32-21 lead midway through the second quarter.

Grant Hitchcock had nine points during the streak.

At the same time, the Falcons defense limited the Bulldogs to just 3 of 10 shots for the

quarterback and gave them tantrums trying to work the basketball around the perimeter.

“Everyone knocked down shots,” Ray said. “I was not hitting, [John] Castrilla was not hitting, but [Brock] Bean was knocking, Hitchcock was on, [Garrett] Thompson… It was right across the board. I was so proud of these guys and I wouldn’t speak with anyone else.

The Falcons took a 10-point lead in the locker room.

Coach Robert Pisano said nervousness may have been a factor for his side at the start of the match, but in the pre-match chat he recalled they had won the right to play a game with conference implications on the line.

“I think there was a lot of pressure on themselves,” the coach said. “I told our guys, the pressure is deserved. You deserved to have the pressure on you by the season you had. But, there is no more pressure on this game than the last games We said a few weeks ago when we lost to Poland [66-58 on Jan. 14] that we control our own destiny. If we win, we win a share of the league title.”

The Falcons extended the league to 15 at 41-26 with 4:34 remaining. Bulldogs Ross Dedo single-handedly kept Poland in the game by scoring ten of their 13 points in the third quarter. Christian Colosino hit a three-pointer to beat the buzzer and cut Jefferson’s lead to 47-36.

But, the Falcons put him aside early in the fourth scoring the first seven points to regain command. Joey DeGeorge started the run with a field goal, followed by Ray spinning in the paint for a bucket, then a three-pointer from Castrilla left no doubt there would be a net-cutting celebration after the game.

For Pisano, the championship title comes in his third year at the helm of the Falcon program, having been dropped from Lakeside.

“We formed this team three years ago,” he said. “There’s been a lot of preparation. I don’t think this group of seniors have ever beaten Poland. These are two big wins for our program and to go 12-2 in this league, in my opinion, it’s crazy It’s a hell of a Division II league, and we’re a

“I can’t say how well this team came together and the defensive rebound won those games down the stretch.”

The victory was the eighth straight for Jefferson, bringing his record to 15-3, 12-2 in the conference, tied for first with Struthers. This is the league’s first championship since 2016, when they won the All-American conference.

The loss drops Poland to 14-5 and 11-3 in conference.

Hitchcock led Jefferson in scoring with 17.

Ray got his scoring basket in the last minute of the game to cap off the celebration.

Afterwards, the elder said that there was still work to be done.

“District title,” he said. “That’s what awaits us next…district title.”

The Falcons still have two regular season games before the playoffs. Next Tuesday at Edgewood, then next Friday at Madison.