By all rights, Schalmont had no business having a chance to win Saturday’s Section II Class B boys’ basketball championship game.
But there the Sabres were, with the ball under their own basket, down, 38-36, to Hoosick Falls with seven seconds remaining.
“I said. ‘Seven seconds is a long time, We’ve just got to get to the basket,’ ” said first-year Schalmont coach Greg Loiacano of his team’s last timeout. “We got to the basket, it just rimmed out. What are you going to do? Sometimes, it goes your way; sometimes, it doesn’t.”
“We thought we were coming out with a win,” said Schalmont junior Zac O’Dell. “We believed in each other.”
But Aidan Frank’s floor-length drive rolled off the rim as time expired, leaving the Colonial Council champions collapsed on the Colonie High School gym floor, emotionally and physically drained after getting back all but one of a 17-point deficit from late in the third period,
“They played great ‘D.’ We knew they would play great defense,” said O’Dell, Schalmont’s leading scorer who was scoreless at the half and was held to four shots and a season-low six points by a swarming, sagging defense. “They made it hard to score.”
“They swarm. We talked in the shoot-around that when we got it down low that we had to keep the ball high,” said Loiacano. “Either Zac or Matt Bird or Eric Haller, we knew we had to keep it high. As soon as we put it down, their guys were there to take it.”
The Panthers also opened hot from the three-point line, making four from behind the are before hitting their first two-point basket.
But they would make only one more trey, finishing 5-for-20. Schalmont did even less from distance, their 2-for-17 allowing the Panthers to sit back and help on defense.
The top-seeded Panthers took a 20-12 lead at halftime, getting one point from the free-throw line in both the first and second quarters on fouls called as time expired.
Things got no better for Schalmont in the third quarter, as Austin Pitt scored on four straight trips down the floor as Hoosick Falls built a 17-point lead, 33-16.
“In the second half, we knew we were going home if we didn’t pick it up a little,” said O’Dell, who hit the backboards with a vengeance over the final eight minutes as Schalmont began a remarkable comeback.
The 19-4 Sabres held the once-beaten Panthers off the board for half of the fourth period, and Noah Chani’s basket with 4:13 would be their only score from the floor in the final 10-plus minutes.
“Everyone came alive,” O’Dell said of the run that got the Sabres to within a point, 37-36.
The only thing the Sabres didn’t do was make their free throws, which would hurt them.
“Free throws killed us,” said O’Dell. “I missed a one-and-one. We missed six free throws in the fourth quarter. That was huge. You can’t win if you’re shooting 60 percent [10-for-16] from the line.”
“We shot probably 50 free throws in our shoot around today,” said Loiacano. “We knew we had to shoot 70 percent to win the game. We didn’t.”
Tourney MVP Andrew Hoag had a chance to all but ice the game with eight seconds left, but missed the second of two free throws.
O’Dell grabbed the rebound and the Sabres called a time out to set up their final chance at a win or overtime, a chance that would come up empty,
“I knew coming in it was going to be a battle.” said Loiacano. “They get in your face. That was probably the best defense — other than Green Tech of Scotia — that we’ve seen.
“We had our shot. We just missed some foul shots.”
Frank 3-2-8, N.Bird 4-4-14, O’Dell 3-0-6, Clifford 0-1-1, M.Bird 2-2-6, Haller 0-1-1. Totals: 12-10-36.
Hoag 2-3-9, McCart 1-0-2, Bradley 1-1-4, Pitt 6-1-13, Hackett 2-0-6, Chani 2-0-4. Totals: 14-5-38.
Schalmont 5 8 9 14 — 36
Hoosick Falls 11 9 15 3 — 38
Three-point goals: N.Bird 2, Hoag 2, Bradley, Hackett 2.
Categories: High School Sports