For the third year in a row, the Hamilton boys basketball team found itself on the grand stage at Manley Field House, on the brink of a Section III title.
And just like the previous two trips, this one ended in profound disappointment.
In the last-ever Class D-1 title game played at Manley Field House Saturday afternoon, the Emerald Knights led Sackets Harbor late in the fourth quarter, only to have the Patriots make a final surge and prevail, 56-49, ending Hamilton's season.
New York Mills, in 2007, and Richfield Springs, in 2008, had snuffed out Hamilton's title dreams, and this experienced group of Emerald Knights (six seniors) was bent on changing that negative trend.
To do so, Hamilton had to stop Sackets, a team who made the state Class D final four a season ago and had knocked off top seed Belleville-Henderson to get to this point.
From the start, the Emerald Knights found itself dealing with heavy man-to-man pressure from the Patriots' defense, but it converted enough to stay within sight. On the other hand, Sackets' hot shooting produced an early 17-13 edge.
Hamilton tightened a bit in the second quarter, at least enough to have Derrick Cenicola start sinking shots to make up the deficit. As they went to the break, the Emerald Knights and Patriots were in a 27-27 tie.
But the Emerald Knights went cold in the third period. Cenicola drew more defensive attention, especially with second-leading scorer Matt Broedel saddled with foul trouble and spending long periods on the bench. It led to turnovers as Sackets went back in front.
Entering the final period, Hamilton trailed, 38-34, but it wouldn't go away. The Emerald Knights kept battling away and, with 3:48 left, saw Keith Upton drive in for a lay-up that put his team ahead 45-43.