While a calf injury slowed Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons senior Brian Hamor this basketball season, no defense could.
“He’s probably the most prolific, determined scorer I’ve had, and I’ve been coaching for 22 years,” Golden Knights coach Garry Horne said of The Daily Gazette All-Area first-team star. “He’s a pure shooter and a great penetrator. He’s almost impossible to guard when his shot is working.”
Hamor is joined on the All-Area first team by Jim Janson of Scotia-Glenville, Jordan Stevens of Saratoga Springs, Taran Buie of Bishop Maginn and Chris Pelcher of Albany Academy.
Behind the scoring of Hamor, a 6-foot-2 combination guard, the Golden Knights advanced to their third straight Section II Class A final four. Hamor helped his team get there with his signature performance, willing his way to 23 points in a 62-56 comeback win against South Glens Falls in the quarterfinals.
“That’s the first time I had to make a kid sit out because of pure exhaustion,” Horne said. “And he didn’t want to come out.”
Hamor, who sat out four previous games with his sore left calf, collected 13 of those 23 points in a 26-9 fourth-quarter rally. He netted 22 more in a semifinal loss to Gloversville.
“I was overly impressed,” South Glens Falls coach John Mossing said afterward. “To come out knowing everyone in the gym is trying to stop you, and score 23 points, that’s a special kid.”
Hamor scored 464 points in the 18 games he played for an area-best 25.8 average. He scored 20 points or more 16 times, including 33 against LaSalle, 34 against Arts and Design of Manhattan, 37 against Troy in the game when he was injured, and a career-best 41 against Amsterdam.
“He took a hard shot in that [Amsterdam] game, and that set him off. I think he had 18 points in one quarter,” Horne said of the Big 10’s co-most valuable player. “I’m supposed to be coaching out there, and I found myself instead just watching him hit shot after shot. He’s an exciting player. He can score in bunches.”
Hamor led Bishop Gibbons in scoring for four straight seasons, and finished with 1,458 points, the second-highest total in school history behind Lionel Chalmers’ 1,532. Hamor amassed 439 points as a junior, when Bishop Gibbons won the Section II championship, and he was the tournament MVP and a Gazette All-Area second-team star.
“He averaged 12 points as a freshman, 14 as a sophomore, 17 as a junior and 26 as a senior. That’s outstanding,” Horne said. “A lot of kids shy away from the big shot, but he wanted to take it, and I wanted him to take it.”
Hamor took the ball to the basket with more frequency this season, scoring, drawing fouls and dishing off to teammates after his quick bursts.
“He spent the whole summer working on ways to get to the basket,” Horne said. “Play up close on him, and he’ll go by you. Play off, and he’ll stick the jumper.”
Aside from his point production, which was enhanced by 77 percent shooting from the line, Hamor averaged 11 rebounds, five assists and three steals. In a loss to Big 10 champion Bishop Maginn, he recorded a triple-double with 16 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists.
“He can do everything well because he’s a worker. He has that dog determination,” Horne said of the athletic and academic standout. “That’s why he’s getting a scholarship from Stonehill College. He can do it all, including defense, which a lot of people don’t recognize. He’s long and smart, and he has good foot speed.”
With Hamor serving as a spark, Bishop Gibbons posted a 43-26 record over the last three seasons, and placed third in the Big 10 each time. Before the run of success, the Knights hadn’t had a winning season since 1996-97.
Scotia-Glenville big man Jim Janson transformed himself from a solid contributor to a dominant force and propelled the Tartans to a share of the Foothills Council championship — their first Section II title in 34 years — and a school-record 21 victories.
The 6-10 LeMoyne College-bound senior averaged 17.2 points, 14.2 rebounds and 5.6 blocked shots in his third varsity season, and was selected a first-team league all-star for the second time, as well as the Section II Class A tournament MVP.
“The growth from his junior year to his senior year, it’s unreal. Has anyone in the area improved more in a year? He went through the roof,” Tartans coach Jim Giammattei said. “And you can’t look at just scoring points. His movement, his defense, everything got better, every facet from A to Z.”
Janson scored in double figures in all but two games, including a 23-point outing with 15 rebounds in Scotia-Glenville’s 56-47 Section II title win over Gloversville. He had 16 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks in a semifinal win over Mohonasen, and 18 points, 20 rebounds and six blocks in a quarterfinal win against Averill Park.
“He’s the meal ticket,” said Giammattei, who saw Janson reach season highs with 21 rebounds against Broadalbin-Perth and 10 blocked shots against Glens Falls. “No one was eating without him. In the sectionals, with so much on the line, he really came through.”
Janson shot nearly 60 percent from the field, often finishing with a slam dunk, finger roll or putback after a miss. He scored 413 points, after collecting 274 as a junior and 62 as a sophomore.
“When you look at the film, he’s always got two or three guys on him, and he still finished or got fouled and went to the line,” Giammattei said. “And when he got fouled, which was often, his demeanor never changed. He stayed calm and cool. He’s a very poised player.”
While Janson scored 20 points or more nine times, his inside presence alone was a factor in the Tartans’ offensive success.
“We hit so many threes because guys were open on the perimeter. People were worrying about someone else [Janson], and they got good looks at the hoop,” said Giammattei. “No one looks at that. It’s another way Jim helped us.”
When Jordan Stevens cranked it up, the three-time Daily Gazette All-Area first-team pick was one of Section II’s most difficult players to stop.
The title game of the Hilliard tournament at Schenectady was one of those nights, when the 6-5 senior swingman poured in 16 fourth-quarter points, including two decisive free throws with 23 seconds left, in a 57-56 victory.
“He had the flu that night, and for three quarters, he struggled,” Blue Streaks coach Mitch Snyder said of the tourney’s MVP, who finished with 27 points. “In the fourth quarter, he took over.”
Stevens left his stamp on many quarters in his five-year career, and finished with 1,798 points for the second-highest mark in school history, behind Tim Parker’s 1,902. The Holy Cross-bound senior averaged 21 points this season, which included a career-high 35 when Saratoga dealt Shenendehowa its only regular-season defeat.
Stevens also scored 31 points against Ballston Spa, 30 against Shaker and 29 in his final game, a playoff loss to Schenectady.
“He had a big load on his shoulders. Everyone knew he was our go-to scorer,” said Snyder. “He didn’t have [2008 graduate Garret] Bishop or those guys we had when he was a sophomore for support, and he still produced. He had to create shots for himself, where in college, they’ll set him up for open looks.”
Snyder believes Stevens, the Suburban Council Player of the Year as a sophomore and senior, will flourish at Holy Cross with his great elevation and smooth shooting touch.
“Holy Cross will be a great fit for him. He will thrive just playing his role as a wing. He’ll be a piece of the puzzle,” Snyder said. “Here’s a guy who can get to the rim, distribute, create and shoot very well from the perimeter, and I’m sure as his career goes on, he’ll become an even bigger piece of their puzzle.”
Stevens averaged seven rebounds, four assists and two blocks for the Blue Streaks, who placed second in the league’s North Division, and strung together seven wins at one point.
“He’s a model of what we want a Saratoga basketball player to be,” Snyder said. “He’s well-mannered and does well in school. On the court, he’s always diving for loose balls. He’s the first one at practice and he’s positive with his teammates, whether things are going well or not.”
With Bishop Maginn hit hard by graduation, coach Rich Hurley asked a little more of Taran Buie, and the junior combination guard delivered on and off the court as the Golden Griffins put together their second straight 16-0 Big 10 season and reached the sectional final four.
“Taran was more of a vocal leader. In the past, he didn’t have to be,” Hurley said. “He said, ‘This is how you play for coach. This is how we do things here.’ He stepped up for us. He just tried to make the other guys better.”
On the court, the 6-2 Penn State-bound Buie was bigger, faster and better than ever, boosting his scoring average to 19.2 points with over five rebounds, five assists and two steals per outing.
“He’s tough. He’s a top-40 player in the country, and there’s more to come,” Hurley said of the Big 10 co-MVP and Section II Class AA tournament all-star. “He’s a super talent with a bright future.”
Buie scored in double figures every time out after doing the same in 27 of 28 games as a sophomore, when the Golden Griffins won their second straight sectional banner and captured the state public school championship. As a freshman, Buie helped his team reach the state title game.
“He showed he can score during our run to the state championship, but we didn’t ask him to be the man,” Hurley said. “This year, we ran our offense through him, and he was great. He did everything we asked of him.”
Buie scored a career-high 29 points in an early-season win over Albany, and topped that in the sectional semifinals, hitting six threes and pouring in 30 in a dramatic 60-59 overtime loss to Albany Academy. Buie had eight other games with over 20 points, netting 24 against Long Island Lutheran and 23 against Newburgh Free Academy, while boosting his career total to 1,066 .
“Last year, we had four guys average double digits. Before that, we had his brother [Penn State starting guard Talor Battle],” Hurley said. “He had to score a little more.”
Chris Pelcher provided Albany Academy with a big, athletic and effective presence down low to complement its perimeter cast, and averaged 19.5 points, 12 rebounds and over three blocks in its 22-2 campaign.
“The exciting thing about Chris is there’s so much room to grow. I think his best basketball is ahead of him,” Cadets coach Brian Fruscio said of the 6-9 Iona-bound center. “A lot of kids peak as high school seniors. That’s when they play the best basketball of their careers, but Chris has the potential to really blossom. I think he can be a pro someday, and get paid to play.”
Pelcher was on the money from the outset of the season, when he scored 26 points, snared 14 rebounds and blocked six shots in a win over LaSalle. That was the first of 23 double-digit scoring games for the Section II Class AA tournament all-star, who topped out with 32 in a win over Voorheesville.
“This year, he wanted to be physical and aggressive, and he certainly was,” Fruscio said. “We stepped up to the Class AA level, and he stepped up his game to a higher level.”
Pelcher played some of his best ball against Academy’s toughest opponents. He had 22 points and 14 rebounds in a win over state Class A Federation champ Long Island Lutheran, collected 20 points and nine rebounds in a win over state Class AA public school champ Newburgh Free Academy, and worked for 28 points and 12 boards in a loss to Los Alamitos, Calif.
“He didn’t duck anybody,” Fruscio said.