The 2013 Section VII/Class D champion Moriah Vikings
The Schroon Lake Wildcats were not going to do down without a fight.
Trailing by 14 early in the fourth quarter, the ‘Cats scratched their way back to within three points of the Moriah Vikings in the Section VII/Class D championship game March 2, but were unable to convert on key free throws and turnovers as the Vikings scored a 49-44 win.
“They don’t ever want to make it easy,” Vikings head coach Brian Cross said after the game. “Our screen-roll worked well today, but it was our defense that won the game for us. We were able to stop Jesse (Shaughnessy) from getting to the basket and keep an eye on their shooters. When they came back, it was because we started to lose those shooters.”
The ability to penetrate the opposition defense was a key to the game, as Moriah was able to score points in the paint on drives by Viking guards while the Wildcats struggled.
“We wanted to stop their penetration and we came in here wanting to run screen-roll,” Adam Jaquish (nine points, five rebounds, one steal and three blocks) said.
“We wanted to stop Jesse on their penetration plays and keep to their shooters,” Derek Brassard (seven points, three rebounds, two assists and two steals) said.
“They were being aggressive just like we were,” Jessup Calkins (six points, five rebounds, one assist, one steal and two blocks) said. “We had to come out playing hard and strong on both sides of the ball.”
“We looked to set the plays up, but early in the game we realized that we could penetrate and that worked for us the rest of the game,” Tyler Pratt, who led the team with 10 points to go with two rebounds, two assists and three steals, said.
“We took what they gave us and found our opportunities as they came in the game,” Cross said. “We have scouted each other a lot so you have a good feeling that your set plays are not going to work when you know each other that well.”
“They did a pretty good job penetrating and a lot of the shots they took in traffic found their way into the basket,” Wildcats head coach Lee Silvernail said.
The Wildcats also missed their chance to take advantage of the offensive glass, grabbing 20 offensive boards compared to just two for the Vikings, both by Calkins. Overall, the Wildcats held a 36-18 rebounding advantage.
“We had the rebounds, but it seemed like we were unable to get good looks from those,” Silvernail said.
The Vikings scored the first four points of the fourth quarter, stretching their lead to 39-25. The Wildcats were not going to go quietly, however.
“We called a timeout and I told them that they had four minutes to leave everything out on the court,” Silvernail said. “They had just enough to pull up close to them, but in the end we just could not get over the hump.”
Jeff Armstrong started the comeback attempt with a three pointer, which was followed by a pair of triples by Tanner Stone.
At 46-35, the Wildcats got a free throw from Shaughnessy, who then assisted Joe Maisonville on a layup. Armstrong then hit a three-pointer and was fouled on the shot, converting on a rare four-point play to cut the lead to 46-42 with 38.4 seconds remaining.
Mike Mero converted on a free throw with 37.3 seconds remaining for a 47-42 edge, and Shaughnessy then scored a basket to pull the Wildcats within three points with under 20 seconds remaining.
On the inbounds, Shaughnessy stole the ball and went up for a basket, missing but getting fouled with 11.3 seconds left on the clock. He was unable to convert on either free throw, and Brassard pulled in the rebound for the Vikings, getting fouled in the process. Brassard then stepped to the line and connected on both free throws, sealing the upset of the third-ranked team in the state for Class D.
Mero added eight points, two assists and one rebound for the Vikings, while Ryan Shpur had seven points and a pair of rebounds. Wesley Belzer added two points and a block.
For the Wildcats, Shaughnessy scored a game-high 15 points to go with 11 rebounds, four assists and five steals in his final varsity game. Armstrong also had a big game, scoring 12 points to go with 15 rebounds and a steal. Stone added eight points, three rebounds, three steals and a block; while Maisonville had four points and a rebound; Alex Shaughnessy scored three points to go with two rebounds, three assists, two steals and one block; and Bobby Rose added three points, three assists, two rebounds, two steals and one blocked shot.
The Vikings travel to Potsdam March 5 to take on the Section X/Class D champion Madrid-Waddington with a 7:45 p.m. tip time. Madrid-Waddington was the regional champion in 2012, defeating Willsboro in the regional final one year ago.