Everyone on the Vernon-Verona-Sherill boys basketball team was happy that it got a full week to refocus after the attention surrounding head coach Al Knapp's 500th victory, achieved Jan. 8 at Oneida.
That focus would be needed on Friday night, when the 13-1 Red Devils hosted defending Class A champion New Hartford, a team it beat with a last-second basket on Dec. 11.
And it was there for a while -- but in the second half, VVS shut down to a scary degree on the offensive side, allowing New Hartford to take over and win big, 52-35.
When they had met before, on Dec. 11, VVS had won 59-58 with a last-second shot, a defeat New Hartford vividly remembered and wanted to avenge -- especially since guard Andy Roemer, who didn't play in that game due to injury, was healthy again.
At first, that didn't look to be possible. Clamping down with its trademark defense, the Red Devils forced the Spartans to miss 12 of its first 13 shots.
Yet VVS could not take full advantage of this drought, which extended into the second quarter. When it went to halftime, the Red Devils led 27-20, but the door had been kept open.
Sure enough, VVS hit its own cold spell, unable to score in the third quarter until the 3:21 mark, by which time New Hartford had caught up.
Going into the fourth quarter, the Red Devils were down 38-33, but squandered any chance of catching up by missing all seven of its field goal attempts and committing nine turnovers.
New Hartford succeeded on the offensive side by hitting outside shots. Roemer had 19 points, including three 3-pointers, while Reggie German accounted for all 12 of his points from four 3-point field goals. Zack Jensen (12 points) and Derek Smith (11 points) led VVS, but Evan Croll, hot for weeks, had just five points in this defeat.