This weekend, basketball was about more than dunks and free throws — it was about helping people in need. The UR Men’s and Women’s basketball teams competed in the annual Mark’s Pizzeria Crosstown Shootout, which pits local teams against each other to raise money for the American Cancer Society.
The UR Men played their first game of the tournament, a win against St. John Fisher College, on Thursday night. A hotly contested opening tipoff set the tone for the game. Three early fouls cemented that this game would not be won lightly. The ‘Jacket’s sound shooting, led by two early 3-point shots from junior Kailan Lee, helped them gain an early lead.
Soon after, UR switched from a man-to-man defense to a zone. Here, players began to look confused and miss assignments, leaving shots open. The Cardinals began to slowly chip away at the ‘Jacket’s 10-point lead, eventually gaining their own advantage. A big stop by senior Patrick Benka at the end of the half signaled a turn of the tide, even though the ‘Jackets went into the locker room down 43–41 at halftime.
A halftime show featuring a T-shirt race kept the fans entertained and provided an opportunity for attendees to further support a good cause. Following the race, two kids traversed the stands with donation buckets.
The lighthearted fun ended as the teams took the court for a second half of hotly contested basketball. Senior Ryan Algier began to really make his presence known on the stat sheet this half, with a big block and strong play down low to help UR climb to a 59–52 lead with 10 minutes to play. St. John Fisher managed to tie the game back at 73 apiece by slowing down their offense and taking higher-percentage shots.
Despite this brief comeback, the ‘Jackets finished the game out without losing their lead again, at 78–75. Lee scored 25 points, making all four of his 3-point shots, and Algier scored a then-career high of 21 (the record didn’t last long,) with a further nine rebounds.
Saturday night, a large crowd gathered to watch UR defeat Nazareth College in the final game of the event. The Golden Flyers airballed a shot early, much to the delight of the home crowd, and continued to miss shots all night, finishing the game with a team field goal percentage of 33.9, compared the ‘Jackets rate of 56 percent.
Lee and Algier showed up to play early, with Lee displaying some impressive dribbling to power the offense. Nazareth countered with solid team play and ball movement, using screens to successfully bamboozle the ‘Jackets defenders. At the end of the half, a huge block by UR junior Trent Noordsij led to a score by Benka, put the ‘Jackets in the same position as Thursday: trailing at the half by a narrow margin, but with the momentum in their favor.
Halftime provided yet another source for entertainment, as two youth basketball teams competed. The fans were as excited about this game as the main event, cheering for strong plays and letting out a collective sigh at missed shots. A rousing rendition of “Happy Birthday” rose from the stands in celebration of one of the children, who celebrated by scoring his own two points.
The second half was all about Algier. Leading the team with strong rebounding and a big dunk, he accounted for half of the team’s 50 points as they entered the final 10 minutes of play. Nazareth was incapable of stopping Algier, who finished the night with a new career high of 33 points in addition to 13 rebounds, and made the all-tournament team. Lee, who scored 27 points on the night, joined him. The final score was 77—56.
Beyond the athletic competition, the event honored and raised money to support cancer patients and research on treatments. In addition to a $10,000 donation from Mark’s Pizzeria, and other individual donations, all proceeds from ticket sales went to the American Cancer Society. A moment of silence was also held before each game in solidarity with those affected by cancer. The silence was a way that the Rochester community could show respect for cancer’s victims, but the teams honored them further by leaving everything they had on the court for the whole weekend.