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Jamestown one win away from Class AA title; Paige's OT jam keys semis win

Jamestown has achieved yet another postseason first, thanks to yet another clutch late-game performance. This time, it included one spectacular play and one improbable finish on the premier stage for high school basketball in the state.

Jamestown got a tremendous alley-oop slam dunk from standout guard Jaysean Paige to seize the momentum in overtime, then his teammates sustained it despite Paige fouling out with a minute to go as the Red Raiders dethroned defending Class AA state champion Christian Brothers Academy of Albany, 61-56, Saturday at the Glens Falls Civic Center.

Just as they did in their landmark first postseason victory over Niagara Falls in the Section VI title game, and their first-ever regional win last week against Irondequoit in overtime, the Red Raiders hit big shots and played standout defense in the game's most important moments.

"I couldn't be prouder of a group of kids," Jamestown coach Ben Drake said. "We played fabulous defense in the fourth quarter and overtime. The kids just dug in."

Jamestown's first final is today at 3:15 p.m. (Time Warner Cable SportsNet) against an opponent worthy of such a contest -- Section I (Westchester County) champion Mount Vernon, which is one win away from what would be a record ninth championship.

An estimated 1,800 watching the Glens Falls Civic Center were buzzing well after the dunk by the 6-foot-1 Paige, who streaked in from the right side for a strong, two-handed finish of a perfect pass pass from the left side by Adam Cecchini to give Jamestown a 52-48 lead in overtime.

"I didn't even know it was coming," Paige said. "I gave him a little head nod, but I didn't know he was going to throw it. But he threw it and I just jumped and I got it."

The Red Raiders would lead the rest of the way, but they were up by just 54-51 after Paige (23 points, 14 rebounds, four assists) committed his fifth foul and CBA's Cornell-bound Galal Cancer (11 points) hit one of two at the line with 1:05 left in OT.

Darin Butts (13 points, five assists), a 6-3 senior, provided another one of the biggest baskets in the game on Jamestown's first possession without Paige as he drove down the lane and elevated for a finish to put Jamestown up, 56-51.

Joey Campion (13 points) hit four free throws the rest of the way for Jamestown, which limited CBA to one field goal in overtime.

CBA led for most of regulation. The Brothers had a 10-point lead in the second quarter, which Jamestown trimmed to 26-21 at halftime. Despite Paige sitting out a stretch, the Red Raiders stayed within 39-35 after three quarters.

Joey Campion began the fourth with a three-pointer. Then, Paige's spectacular, hanging-in-the-air, double-clutch bank shot while being fouled went for a three-point play and gave Jamestown its first second-half lead at 41-39 with 5:54 left. Jamestown had as much as a four-point lead but Albany CBA surged back. A turnover led to a Leppanen three-point play that tied the game at 46-46 with 1:47 left.

CBA had a chance to win the game in regulation as it took over with 34.6 seconds left in the game and 33 seconds on the shot clock with the game tied at 48-48. But, as it had done twice earlier in the game, Jamestown's defense forced a shot clock violation. Paige's final-second desperation heave was well short.

"Again tonight, a tie game, 20 seconds left, and a timeout -- it's a situation we seem to have been in several times," said Drake. "We said, 'This is it, we've been here before, we've always come out on the winning end.' The defensive intensity and the looks on the kids faces -- I'm just very proud of how they played."

Mount Vernon beat Long Island's Half Hollow Hills West, 69-65, in a semifinal filled with fast breaks, highlights and major Division I-caliber plays by the likes of West Virginia-bound and co-Mr. Basketball Jabarie Hinds (10 points) of Mount Vernon and Iowa State-bound Tavon Sledge of West (18), which lost to Albany CBA in last year's final. Mount Vernon's eight state championships is tied with Long Island's Westhampton.

Jamestown will try to become the fifth Section VI team to win a title in the state's largest class.

"We know we'll have our work cut out for us, but we're going to do what we do," said Drake. "We're going go out and give it everything we have, and play with a lot of heart and enthusiasm and hope for the best."

e-mail: kmcshea@buffnews.com