Though it was far from smooth, the Hamilton girls basketball team still finds itself unbeaten - and one win away from a Section III Class D championship.
Moving to 21-0, the Emerald Knights played in Friday night's Class D semifinals at Richfield Springs against no. 5 seed Oriskany, who had ousted Madison 38-27 to get this far.
It turned out to be a close, exciting affair, with Hamilton needing all kinds of good work at the foul line to rally past the Redskins down the stretch and prevail 62-55.
When Hamilton held Oriskany to a mere four points in the first quarter, it looked like the normal mode of business.
That changed in a hurry, though, when the Redskins tore through the Emerald Knights' defense in a fast-paced second quarter, though Hamilton kept up long enough to get a 27-27 tie at the break.
They continued to clash in the third quarter, with Oriskany edging in front 44-42, giving itself a real chance to crush Hamilton's perfect dream.
But the Emerald Knights got even more aggressive in the final period, constantly forcing the Redskins to foul. In all, Hamilton took 16 free throws in that last frame and made 13 of them as it slowly overtook Oriskany and went in front for good.
Jess Brawn spent a lot of time at the foul line, converting 14 free throws on her way to 26 points for the night. Both Brawn and Jordan Peterson, whose 17 points included seven successful foul shot, made up for the voracious defensive attention Oriskany gave to Kylie Martin, who managed just nine points.
A day later, Hamilton found out that it would face defending champion Sackets Harbor in the finals this Saturday at Utica Memorial Auditorium.
In its Class D semifinal, the Patriots made a stirring fourth-quarter comeback to knock off Richfield Springs 48-45 in a rematch of last year's sectional final. Senior guard Courtney Allen leads Sackets' attack.