At some point along the line, a champion must come through in the highest of pressure situations.
So if the Vernon-Verona-Sherrill boys basketball teams ends up reigning the Tri-Valley League or going even further, it will look to last Tuesday night's 59-58 road win at defending Section III Class A champion New Hartford as a key turning point.
Or more specifically, it might look to one remarkable pass as that landmark of the Red Devils' first win over the Spartans since the 2002-03 season.
New Hartford led, 58-57, as time wound down in the game. The Spartans had gone in front on Zach Armstrong's banked jumper with 33 seconds to play, but had missed a chance to go further ahead when Tim Reed missed the front end of a one-and-one with 11.4 seconds left.
After Evan Croll got the rebound and called time-out, VVS had one more chance. The Red Devils knew it had to take care of the ball, for it had turned the ball over in the previous possession before Reed's miss and knew the Spartans would bring pressure to the ball to keep it from going inside.
Sure enough, as he passed mid-court, VVS point guard Jeremy Roden faced a swarming double team. Roden lobbed the ball out of the double team to 6-9 center Adam Kemp inside -- and Kemp used his reach to make a great catch, then calmly made the game-winning lay-up as the buzzer sounded.
With that win, VVS improved to 5-0 on the season and 2-0 in Tri-Valley League play, the Red Devils having beaten Holland Patent in its league opener on Dec. 7.
This proved to be much harder than HP. Despite a thin bench (it used just six players all night), New Hartford put VVS in trouble early.
At one point in the second quarter, the Red Devils trailed by 11, but it whittled away at that margin and was quite pleased that it only faced a 31-28 halftime deficit.