With all kinds of effort and heart, the Hamilton boys basketball team earned one more trip to Manley Field House to play for the Section III Class D-1 championship.
Thanks to its 50-43 victory over LaFargeville in Friday night's semifinal at Rome Free Academy, the no. 2 seed Emerald Knights will take on defending champion Sackets Harbor Saturday at 11 a.m. with the D-1 title at stake.
Hamilton was at Manley a year ago, beaten there by Richfield Springs. No doubt, the Emerald Knights have been pushing to get back there in the ensuing 12 months, especially knowing that this is the last year basketball championships will be played at that historic facility.
LaFargeville, the no. 6 seed, had already proven itself by knocking off no. 3 seed Oriskany, so it was a game Hamilton couldn't look past.
Sure enough, LaFargeville played the Emerald Knights to a 10-10 first-quarter draw, then inched out in front in the second period, leaving Hamilton behind 26-22 going to the break.
Staying cool, the Emerald Knights reclaimed the lead in the third quarter and kept it through an improving defense that got tough just when it mattered. In a tense fourth quarter, Hamilton held LaFargeville to just six points, with Josh Haswell (12 rebounds) dominating in the paint.
On the offensive end, Derrick Cenicola set the pace with 17 points, while all of Coley Graham's 12 points came from four 3-pointers. Matt Broedel added seven points and Keith Upton got five points.
Hamilton will now try and dethrone Sackets Harbor, who went to the state Class D final four in 2008 and, led by senior Nick D'Allesandro, knocked off top seed Belleville-Henderson 51-39 to get this far. The winner will play New York Mills or Otselic Valley for the overall Class D title early next week.