BALDWINSVILLE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — Two of the best basketball talents in Central New York will square off Friday afternoon when West Genesee travels to Baldwinsville for NewsChannel 9’s Game of the Week. Both teams are 5-2, and they can’t wait for this rivalry matchup.
“I’m really excited because last year I got hurt playing against them,” Baldwinsville sophomore guard J.J. Starling said.
Last year, Baldwinsville basketball standout J.J. Starling was injured during their quarterfinal matchup with West Gennesee in the sectional tournament. Baldwinsville was winning when Starling went out, but the Bees would eventually lose to the future state champions 56-49. Friday Afternoon will be Baldwinsville’s first chance at revenge when they square off with the Wildcats.
“Any time you get a chance to play against the defending state champion, obviously we split with them last year, and we think we can play with them, their obviously a good team, we gotta play our best game if we want to beat them,” Baldwinsville head coach Mike Lewis said.
Baldwinsville is off to a strong start at 5-2, and J.J. has scored over 30 points in each game during the Bees’ current three game win streak.
“This year teams are doing box-and-one and like doubling me, so my teammates are doing a good job at setting screens and getting me to move off-ball,” Starling said.
However, coach Lewis says the Bees can’t only rely on J.J. for offense.
“They trust that J.J. is always going to make the right play, just not always relying on him to make every single play down the court,” Lewis said.
On the other side, West Genesee has a division one athlete of their own in senior Will Amica, and he still has more to prove after helping the Wildcats win a state title last season.
“Everyone’s talking about, ‘oh we’re not going to be good because Luke [Sutherland] left,’ that’s kinda my motivation, I just want to prove everyone wrong,” West Genesee senior guard Will Amica said.
So far, Amica has done just that, leading the Wildcats to a 5-2 start, and they know everyone is gunning for them.
“Every team is going to give us their all because we won states last year,” Sam Gallagher, a West Genesee senior guard, said. “B’ville, we know they are going to play extra hard because we knocked them out last year.”
Baldwinsille has been salivating at the opportunity to square off with the defending champions.
“We all have, we’ve been talking about it before the last game,” Starling said. “We know it’s gonna be a tough one coming in, but we’re looking to work hard and look to compete with them.”
The Bees top priority on Friday is to slow down Will Amica.
“He’s one of the fastest guards in the league,” Lewis said. “They got other players around him, but stopping him initially in transition, that’s when he’s at his best. So If we can do that, we can limit his touches, we’ll be in good shape.”
You can also bet that West Genesee will be focusing on J.J. Starling when the Bees have the ball on Friday.
“I think J.J. Starling is a super talent, I wish I didn’t watch film so late because I couldn’t sleep after I watched it,” West Genesee head coach Fred Kent said.
“If he has open court and space in front of him, he can do a lot with the ball,” Amica said. “So, we just have to make sure he feels cluttered and doesn’t have a lot of vision.”
Although the defenses will be locked in on stopping each team’s top player, Amica and Starling are eager to compete against each other.
Starling said, “I look to compete with someone that’s up to that level every night. I play like Will, he’s a good player, so he’s gonna push me.”
“I know he’s a great player, and I just want to go against him,” Amica said.
Tip-off between West Genesee and Baldwinsville is set for 1:30 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 3, and can be streamed live at localsyr.com.
NewsChannel 9’s Steve Infanti and Mario Sacco will call the game from Baldwinsville’s Charles W. Baker High School.
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