TROY Christian Leppanen became Christian Brothers Academy's latest hero.
The senior guard scored 11 of his game-high 20 points in the final four minutes to lead the Brothers past Section III champion Utica-Proctor 68-60 in Saturday's Class AA boys basketball regional final at Hudson Valley Community College.
Not bad for a player who found himself on the bench two minutes into the game because CBA coach Dave Doemel wasn't happy with the speed at which he was playing.
"When he pulled me, I looked at him like he had six heads or something because I didn't think I was playing all that badly," said Leppanen. "He told me I could either play better or sit on the bench. I wasn't going to sit there and let this be my last game, so I had to start scoring and getting other people involved (in the offense)."
"I told him he needed to be more aggressive, and he listened and he did it," said Doemel.
At the time Leppanen started his scoring binge, CBA was clinging to a 55-53 lead that Chaz Lott created with a transition layup. Leppanen began with a three-pointer to open up a five-point lead, and then he hit a layup off a steal he forced at midcourt to push the advantage to 60-53. Proctor got no closer than five points the rest of the way.
"Christian is a hell of a player, and he needs to let it out once in a while," said Doemel.
Proctor pushed the tempo all night with junior guard J'Von Evans and Kerion Barton getting the ball quickly up the court. At first, CBA had difficulty matching that speed as Proctor built a 13-6 lead in the first quarter, but the Brothers found their legs and started matching the Raiders stride for stride. That led to numerous lead changes in the second and third quarters before Leppanen took over for CBA.