Irondequoit, Victor punch tickets to state final four

Irondequoit coach Chris Cardon will conclude his career in the state final four.

Irondequoit's Section V champion Eagles edged Section VI's Amherst 51-48 in Saturday's New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class A Far West Regional at Gates Chili, clinching their latest trip to the state semifinals.

Senior Ryan Heath's Eagles staved off a late comeback attempt by coach Chris Kensy's Tigers, whose half court heave with 1.4 seconds left fell way off the mark.

"We have a motto, 'unfinished'. These guys worked their butts off," coach Cardon said. "I've got three-sport guys here who were committed to workouts four nights a week in the summer and fall, and lifting. This is a special group because they care so much about each other. You can just see it out here."

In Class AA, Victor, which captured its first Section V title in 45 years, was in a tight game with Section VI's Niagara Falls before Griffen Hopkins and company broke away in the fourth for a 66-59 win.

What it means

Class AA

Victor coach Tyler Roberts' Blue Devils improved to 22-2. They'll make their program debut at the NYSPHSAA final four next weekend with a chance to bring home a state championship.

Class A

Cardon, who plans to retire at season's end with well over 500 career wins, last led Irondequoit (21-4) to the state final four with back-to-back trips in 2017 and 2018. The Eagles won the Class A state title in 2017 and lost in the 2018 semifinals. In 2011, Irondequoit won the Section V Class AA title but lost to Section VI's Jamestown by two in regionals. Amherst, the 2022 Class A Far West Region champion, ended its season at 21-4.

"Unfinished business," Heath said. "Last year we lost in the (Section V semifinals). The next day we were in the gym. Our main focus was to get back here and win it all."

Player of the Game

Class AA: Griffen Hopkins

Victor's sophomore forward scored a game-high 21 points. His Blue Devils led most of the game, watching the Wolverines tie the game at 41 in the third before using a 13-3 run to spark the fourth.

Class A: Ryan Heath

Irondequoit's senior guard led the Eagles with 18 points. He netted 11 in the first half and played every single minute. Heath hit timely shots, handled Amherst's backcourt pressure well, and played sound defense with his teammates backing him.

"Everybody can score and defend. We have depth on our team," Heath said. "When Xavier (Gissendanner), Quinn (VanKerkhove) and I aren't having good games, we have other guys who can contribute."

Game balls

Isaiah Ballard, Irondequoit: The junior center scored 12 points for the Eagles.

Garret Clar, Victor: The senior guard scored 13 points in the Blue Devils' victory.

Xavier Gissendanner, Irondequoit: The senior forward scored 12 points in the Eagles' win. He scored 10 in the first half and made two 3-pointers in the first quarter.

Nick Leonard, Victor: The senior forward netted 15 points to help the Blue Devils clinch a trip to Glens Falls.

Play of the game

Xavier Gissendanner's block may have won Irondequoit the game. The Eagles led 50-49 with 9.4 seconds left. Jordan Alexander — who scored a game-high 24 points on five 3-pointers — drove through the lane for a potential lead-changing bucket, but Gissendanner played disciplined defense and cleanly blocked his shot. Azavier Ross grabbed the loose ball and split his free throws for a three-point lead before Amherst's half court prayer sailed wide.

"I told their coach, 'You guys are good, and you're better than I thought,'" Cardon said. "They really played hard. They're scrappy. They have good guard play. They're tough. We're fortunate to walk away with a win."

What's next

Victor will play Section XI's Brentwood in the NYSPHSAA Class AA semifinals at 2:45 p.m. Friday at Cool Insuring Arena in Glens Falls.

Irondequoit will play Section VIII's South Side at 7:45 p.m. Friday.

Check back later for updates.

This article originally appeared on Rochester Democrat and Chronicle: Irondequoit, Victor punch tickets to NY state boys basketball semis