Not so long ago, the Hamilton boys basketball team tasted the ultimate glory, with the likes of Adonal Foyle and Luke Graham helping head coach Tom Blackford pull off state Class D championships in 1993 and 2000.
To this point, no one is suggesting that the current edition of the Emerald Knights will match that kind of success -- but at least it has made a return to Manley Field House.
As the no. 4 seed in the Section III Class D-1 playoffs, Hamilton has fought its way to the championship game, knocking off the tournament's top seed in the process.
Up against top seed Copenhagen last Friday night at South Lewis High School, the Emerald Knights rode a ferocious defensive effort in the second half to rally past the Gold Knights 46-43.
It looked to be major trouble in the first half, when Copenhagen hit its shots early and built a 29-19 lead by the break.
But here was where all that experience in tough games against state-ranked teams like New York Mills, Sherburne-Earlville and West Canada came into play.
Having absorbed the Gold Knights' best shot, Hamilton began to hit back. It outscored Copenhagen 14-6 in the third quarter, applying a 1-3-1 zone defense that both protected the middle and still kept the opposition from getting any open perimeter looks.
That defense remained sharp in the final period, where the Emerald Knights allowed just eight points, pulled in front, and stayed there to earn the trip to Manley.
On the other side of the ball, Hamilton spread things out. Nick Sorosky led with 12 points, while Nate Broedel added nine points and proved to be an effective defensive stopper all night.
Right behind them, Jeff Schindler put up eight points. Matt Martin had just seven points and did not make a 3-pointer all night, but more than made up for it by recording seven big steals. Mark Schindler added six points.