If it wanted to get to the top of Center State Conference III, the Hamilton boys basketball team had one prime directive -- take down West Canada Valley.
In the first of two attempts to do so last Monday night, the Emerald Knights put up a strong, determined effort on its home court, but still took a 59-51 loss to the Indians.
A season ago, Hamilton, and everyone else, watched West Canada Valley dominate the CSC, putting together a perfect 20-0 regular season on its way to a Section III Class C title and, ultimately, a berth in the state final four in Glens Falls.
With four starters gone from that team, the Indians were supposed to be vulnerable. Instead, it roared out to a 3-0 start, a feat more impressive given that team star Jared Sudderley was out with a knee injury.
Sudderley was not back for this game, either, so Hamilton, who had won its first two games, sense a chance to topple WCV in front of a large and enthusiastic home crowd.
Even though it fell behind in the first quarter, the Emerald Knights tightened up on the defensive side and nearly caught up before halftime. As they went to the break, Hamilton only trailed by two, 28-26.
But when WCV regained that margin in the third quarter, Hamilton did not have a ready answer, unable to make the big run needed for an upset.
Just five Hamilton players notched baskets. Derrick Cenicola's 18 points included a trio of 3-pointers, while Matt Broedel worked inside for 17 points. Josh Haswell had eight points, with Keith Upton and John Schell gaining four points apiece.