Erik Saroney's theory of how the Henninger boys basketball team he coaches pulled off its 73-69 overtime victory over Utica Proctor to earn the Section III Class AA championship was quite simple.
Two previous times this season, the Black Knights had lost to the Raiders. Saroney said the Dec. 23 defeat was a direct result of a young squad still finding its way, while the Jan. 21 setback at Proctor (a 66-48 loss) was just an out-of-character bad performance.
On this night, said Saroney, "they got Henninger."
Indeed they did. In front of a large, pro-Proctor crowd at Utica Memorial Auditorium, Henninger somehow survived three starters fouling out and won its first sectional title since 2008 by getting an unexpected boost from reserve
Terrell Nelson, who led the Black Knights with 19 points, most of them in the late stages.
It wasn't locked up until another reserve, Charles Manning, sank a free throw with 5.1 seconds left to increase Henninger's 72-69 margin by one, finally putting it out of the top-seeded Raiders' reach.
The foul line told a large part of this story. Henninger, not known for good work at the line, went 10-for-12 in the fourth quarter and OT and, overall, went 26-for-33 from the line.
"We had to believe we could do it (at the line), and we did," said Saroney.
Meanwhile, Proctor also took 33 foul shots, but only made 17 - no misses bigger than Maurice Mills' pair of misses with 21.5 seconds left in the extra period and Proctor down by two.
All this was part of a frantic, energetic and emotional game where Henninger, despite all of its foul woes, closed the first half strong and led 35-27 at the break, only to have Proctor catch up in the third quarter, Keenan Brown's 3-pointer tying it 44-44 with one quarter left.