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.