M-W Confidently Downs No. 1 Ranked Moriah
BY DAVE SHEA
POTSDAM - Last week Section 10 Class C Champion Madrid-Waddington dejectedly left the court at SUNY Potsdam after a one-sided loss to eventual champion, Class B Champion Ogdensburg Free Academy, in the semi-finals of the Section 10 Boys Basketball Playoffs.
On Wednesday, at the same Jerry Welsh Gym, the 14th Yellow Jackets (18-5) celebrated a 68-52 regional semi-final victory over top-ranked Section 7 Champion Moriah (21-2).
By the numbers it was a stunning upset. But except a chaotic 2:42 of the fourth quarter, where the Vikings cut a 56-37 lead to 57-49 and shot twice for a chance to pull within four points, the game didn't pass the eye test as an upset.
Stunning was more appropriate to describe the quality of the M-W performance which earned a berth opposite Section 2's Lake George (19-5) in the regional championship game rematch from last year on Saturday at 11 a.m. at Hudson Valley Community College in Troy. Fourth seeded Lake George defeated 11th seeded Waterford 52-48 in the Section 2 finals led by 19 points and seven rebounds from Luke Peldon.
"Lake George is a very good team and we have to be ready," said M-W Coach Aaron Jones.
The Jackets confidently followed their game plan on offense and defense against Moirah led by a pair of senior All-NAC East First Team selections in guard Brennan Harmer and center Trent Lashua.
Harmer buried four of eight long three-pointers in scoring 16 points, dished out nine assists and grabbed seven steals and four rebounds. Lashua delivered a 19-point-16-rebound double-double with four blocks, three assists and four steals.
Harmer buried two threes scored eight points and Lashua connected three times inside in the first quarter where M-W took a 19-10 lead. The Jackets followed with a 9-6 advantage in a second period where both teams struggled to finish and outscored Moriah 40-36 in the second half.
Following the game M-W Coach Aaron Jones, Harmer and Lashua reflected on their team's response to the loss against OFA.
"We were embarrassed." said Coach Jones and Harmer concurred.
"But we showed that you can learn from even from a one-sided loss," added Coach Jones.
"And it showed in practice. The guys that played tonight and all played their hearts out. But all 16 guys, the reserves and the JV callups and all our coaches had a part in this win because we had great practices. We came into the game believing that we could take the ball inside and we did. It was a total team effort."
"We could have never done it without everyone," said Lashua who was also the leader of an interior defense that consistently challenge Moriah's inside shots.
"We played scared against OFA and we knew how good Moriah was. We knew we had to come out and play hard and aggressive and we did."
Lashua scored the first four points of the game; the Jackets never trailed and never lost the lead after Drew Harmer scored inside to break a 4-4 tie. They started their first pull-away scoring the last five points of the first quarter on a 3-pointer by Brennan Harmer and a strong conversion at the goal by reserve center Sage Cordwell.
Earlier in the quarter Jacob Morgan came off the bench and skied above the crowd for an offensive rebound which illustrated the Jackets' determination.
"Jacob Morgan always brings energy when he comes in. Sometimes one play can make a difference. He definitely gave us a lift tonight," said Lashua.
Despite struggling to gain any consistency with their outside or inside shooting or foul shooting; the Vikings persevered and showed their frightening transition capabilities in the furious 12-1 run in the fourth quarter. The Jackets answered in like manner with Kyle Stoner scoring three layups off the press-breaker after Drew Harmer completed an eight-point outing on 4-7 shooting with a strong finish in traffic.
"We knew how good they were on the break and we did a good job sprinting back and limiting their chances," said Coach Jones.
Stoner finished with 13 points on 5-10 shooting with four assists. Jacob Morgan tallied six points on 2-4 shooting with three assists and three steals and Colby Beldock scored four points on 2-2 shooting.
"Moriah was a good team but we came in with a lot of confidence. For me it was so great to see my 3-pointers going down," said Brennan Harmer.
Maddox Blaise led the Vikings with a game-high 24 points on athletic hanging moves and follow-ups at the basket. He scored eight points in the fourth quarter and Rowan Swan, Braden Sprague and will Rohrer all scored eight points in the game. Mike Rollins tallied four points but played sparingly after agitating and ankle injury in the second quarter.