Mar 08, 2009 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
No one, including the Hamilton girls basketball team, could win 21 consecutive games without a combination of supreme talent and outstanding work ethic. A bit of good fortune doesn’t hurt, either.
Yet the Emerald Knights found out Saturday in the Section III Class D finals at Utica Memorial Auditorium just what happens when all the good fortune goes the other way.
Sackets Harbor took full advantage of any Hamilton mistake — and got some nice breaks– as it stunned the Emerald Knights 52-41 to repeat as sectional champions.
A large and loud contingent of Hamilton fans, decked out in various shades of green, came to Utica primed for a celebration. Not only were the Emerald Knights 21-0 and no. 3 in the state Class D rankings, it had flattened most of its opponents, though it did have to rally to get past Oriskany 62-55 in the semifinal round on Feb. 27.
Perhaps a week of rest was the last thing a hot team like Hamilton wanted. It gave Sackets, who need its own big rally to get past Richfield Springs in the other semifinal, a chance to fully examine the Emerald Knights and see where it could attack them.
It came in the form of a motion offense that featured back-door cuts as a way to negate Hamilton’s size advantage inside. If the Emerald Knights closed in, the Patriots would be open for some 3-point looks.
Sackets used this to hang in there through a fast-paced first quarter. Hamilton led, 14-13, at the end of the frame, but Sackets took the lead for good early in the second quarter and used back-to-back 3-pointers from sisters Ashley and Amber Butcher to stretch out the margin.
As the half wound down, Hamilton trailed 27-21. Amid a scramble, Sackets reserve Olivia Townsend picked up the ball and, from 30 feet out, flung it toward the basket at the buzzer. It swished, making the margin 30-21 at halftime and leaving the Emerald Knights in shock.
At one point in the third period, Hamilton, still stunned by Towsend’s long fling, trailed 37-23, but it started to fight back behind full-court pressure that forced the Patriots into a long series of turnovers.
With less than four minutes left, Hamilton was within six, 41-35, and Kylie Martin got fouled after yet another turnover. But Martin missed both free throws, keeping the Emerald Knights from closing the gap to four.
Moments later, Amber Butcher hit yet another 3-pointer. And when, after Jess Brawn fouled out, Dana Gorman’s desperate heave from beyond the arc banked off the glass into the net as the shot clock ran out with 2:22 left, Hamilton was done.
Martin finished with 13 points. Brawn and Jordan Peterson both had 10 points. Gorman led the Patriots with 16 points as Courtney Allen and Amber Butcher each had 11 points.
As Sackets moved on to face South Kortright in this weekend’s Class D regional finals at SUNY-Cortland, Hamilton pondered the end of a magical season that, again, ended at the Patriots’ expense. (Sackets beat them in the semifinals a year ago).
Martin, Brawn and Calyn Fisher all depart, leaving Peterson, just a sophomore, and freshman Katie Weeks as the nucleus for the Emerald Knights’ future plans.