An already historic season for the West Genesee boys basketball team turned even more special with a comeback for the ages.
Trailing Saratoga Springs by double digits in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s Class AA regional final at SRC Arena, the Wildcats made up all the ground, tied it at the buzzer and then dominated overtime to defeat the Blue Streaks 70-55.
All told, WG outscored Saratoga 44-18 over the course of the fourth quarter and OT to earn a trip to Binghamton next weekend for the state final four.
Collectively, it was the Wildcats’ defense that didn’t allow Saratoga to get away, even though WG’s offensive slump carried over from its narrow 41-38 victory over Utica-Notre Dame in the Section III final.
And it maintained composure, despite trailing 37-26 going to the final period. Perhaps that was because the Wildcats remembered that it won a game similar to this late in December on this very same court against another Section II opponent, rallying from 13 down to beat Shenendehowa 49-48.
From the slow pace to the score line, what WG did against Saratoga topped that previous comeback, if only because of the stakes.
It started with an 8-0 run early in the fourth quarter, which made it 38-34. Saratoga countered with five straight points to make it 43-34 with less than four minutes left.
Undaunted, the Wildcats continued to whittle away. Key baskets by Jack McLane and Adam Dudzinski cut the margin to 45-43 before Aidan Holmes’ pair of free throws doubled the Blue Streaks’ margin to four.
With less than 10 seconds left, it was still 47-43, but Kam Jones hit a 3-pointer to cut the deficit to one and WG fouled Saratoga’s Justin Kislowski with 5.6 seconds left. Kislowski missed the first free throw, but made the second.
Down by two, the Wildcats inbounded it to Will Amica, who dribbled up the right side the length of the court and hit a twisting, off-balance lay-up as regulation time expired.
That all but decided the game, even though it only tied the score 48-48, for Saratoga never recovered in overtime. A 12-2 run early in the extra period put the Wildcats ahead for good, Amica contributing both baskets and an alley-oop to Lucas Sutherland for a dunk to cap that spurt.
Amica finished with 25 points. Sutherland, contained for most of the game, still finished with 12 points and nine rebounds as Dudzinski earned 11 points and Jones got nine points.
A mere two victories separate WG from its first-ever state AA title, and to attain them they will need to prevail at Binghamton’s Floyd L. Maines Arena, where Friday at 5 p.m. it faces Section VI power Niagara Falls in the state semifinals, with the winner going to the title game Saturday night at 9 p.m. against Brentwood or Kingston.