Kevin Shannon was the only player who could find the basket as the final five minutes ticked away in the opening half of Saturday’s Section II Class C quarterfinal game between Canajoharie and Stillwater.
“Seeing him score was so awesome,” junior guard Dillon Veeder said after the Cougars had secured a 56-44 victory at Hudson Valley Community College. “It’s his senior year, and he’s my best friend. That pumped me up so much.”
Shannon gave Canajoharie the lead for good with his seven unanswered points, and Veeder delivered 16 of his season-high 22 in the second half as the Cougars stymied the Warriors and reached the semifinal round for the first time since their title run in 2009.
Veeder scored eight points in the third quarter and eight more in the fourth, all from the line after Stillwater had cut a 14-point deficit in half.
“Every time I stepped to the line, I was thinking, ‘This is sectionals. I’ve got to make them,’ ” said Veeder, who was 8-for-10 from the line down the stretch, 13-for-17 overall, and led the Cougars with five steals and added three assists. “I wanted to win so bad.”
“I can’t say enough about Dillon. He’s a warrior and a gym rat,” said first-year Canajoharie coach Phil Schoff, who kept the junior on the court for the full 32 minutes. “When most guys are resting, he’s shooting. He’s taking extra shots. Today, you could see it.”
Shannon notched 13 points, Zach Bowerman scored seven of his nine in the second half and 6-foot-5 sophomore Josh Gonzalez finished with nine points and 16 rebounds. Bowerman’s drive and a layup by Gonzalez to start the fourth quarter gave Canajoharie (No. 4 seed, 17-3) a 42-28 advantage.
“Their role players hit some big shots. We know how good Veeder is, and we know how good Gonzalez is. Shannon hit big shots, and Bowerman hit big shots,” said Stillwater coach David Cook. “It’s sectional time, and some kids step up.”
Shannon’s three-pointer broke an 18-18 tie, and another long ball by the senior guard created the game’s eighth and final lead change. His free throw made it 22-18, and Veeder opened the second half with a quick drive to begin his outburst.
“Kevin is the type of guy who will do what’s best for the team, whether than means running through a wall or hitting threes,” said Schoff. “He’s got guts. Every good team needs to have a senior like that.”
Shannon, Bowerman and Veeder connected on threes in the third quarter as the Cougars worked their lead to 38-28. Zach Folts set up Veeder’s three when he muscled for an offensive rebound and fired a quick pass to the perimeter, one junior forward’s small but important contribution.
“Shots are going to come, and the difference is whether you’re going to hit them or not,” said Shannon, who managed six points in 60-49 first-round win over Voorheesville. “We got a spurt going, and that set the road for us. We got them on their heels, and there was no looking back.”
“Once we got a little lead, coach said don’t back down,” said Veeder. “We kept pushing.”
Stillwater (No. 12, 10-10) didn’t go down quietly, using a 9-2 run to get within 44-37 with three minutes left. Dean Gazzelli started and finished the run with three-point baskets, and Veeder sank the first of his late free throws afterward.
“The name on the front of the jersey says we never quit,” said Cook. “We battled, but tip your hat to Canajoharie. They made plays.”
The Western Athletic Conference Northern Division champs made plays with the ball and without it in both man-to-man and 2-3 zone sets. Bowerman finished with four steals, and Gonzalez had two of his team’s four blocked shots.
“Defense is something we’ve built our team around all year,” said Shannon. “We expect to be better than our opponent.”
Jake Hill sank a free throw for Stillwater with 4:57 left in the second quarter to give his team an 18-15 lead, and the Warriors didn’t score again until Hill’s layup with 6:25 to go in the third frame ended Canajoharie’s 9-0 run.
“One of our keys today was defense,” said Schoff. “If you can stop the efforts of the other team, you can come out on top.”
Canajoharie will meet Hoosic Valley (No. 1, 17-2) in a semifinal game Wednesday night at 8 at the Glens Falls Civic Center. Hoosic
Valley eliminated Rensselaer, 50-45, Saturday.
“We’re going into our next game with high expectations, but also with unwavering respect,” said Schoff. “We’re confident, but not overconfident.”
Shawn McNeil led Stillwater with 14 points, John Hoin had 11 points and five rebounds, and Hill finished with 10 points.
Stickney 1-1-3, Hoin 4-0-11, Hill 4-2-10,
McNeil 7-0-14, Gazzelli 2-0-6. Totals:
Bowerman 3-2-9, Shannon 4-3-14, Foltz 1-0-2, Veeder 4-13-22, Gonzalez 3-2-9. Totals: 15-20-56.
Stillwater 12 6 10 16 — 44
Canajoharie 13 9 16 18 — 56
Three-point goals: Hoin 3, Gazzelli, Bowerman, Shannon 3, Veeder, Gonzalez.