JAMESTOWN – Randolph takes pride in its defense as it believes that if it shuts down the other team, then the offense will take care of itself.
The Cardinals' mettle will definitely be put to the test Tuesday night with a trip to the state tournament on the line by a scary good Chautauqua Lake boys basketball team that is known for scoring in bunches.
The two top seeds in their respective brackets will duke it out for the overall Class C championship Tuesday night at 7:45 p.m. at Jamestown Community College's Physical Education Complex.
Both reached this point in the season by coming out on top in championship games that weren't decided until the final minutes before an estimated 2,000 at JCC.
Randolph advanced with a 51-42 victory over second-seeded East in the C-2 final to avenge a regular-season defeat to the same Panthers. Freshman guard Tyler Hind scored a game-high 20 points, draining five three-pointers, to help Randolph win its first sectional title since 2014. Jake Beaver added 13 points and fellow senior Jarrett Lecceadone had 12 for the Cardinals (19-4), winners of 12 straight games.
"You just couldn't even know what this means," triumphant coach Kevin Hind said. "To get one couldn't feel better."
In the night cap, the Thunderbirds rallied for a 68-62 victory over upset-minded Cleveland Hill. Devin Pope scored 14 of his game-high 33 points in the final quarter. Teammate Aaron Swan had nine of his 27 during the final eight minutes to help Chautauqua Lake captured the title after losing in heartbreaking fashion last season to Olmsted.
"When we beat Olean (earlier this season) I thought that was a good feeling," Pope said. "This I can't even explain. I'm so happy. We worked so hard and we finally got it."
The Section VI tournament resumes with a five-game slate at noon Saturday at the Buffalo State Sports Arena.
In the C-2 game, Randolph once again proved that defense wins championships. The Cardinals shut out an East crew known for its offensive prowess over the final 3 minutes, 30 seconds to capture their first championship since 2014.
The teams met during the regular season at Jamestown High School with the Panthers of East taking a 63-52 decision. In that meeting, Justin Allen and Willard Anderson combined for 43 points.
On Friday, Randolph limited them to 17 combined, holding Anderson to seven – nearly 20 below his season average.
"Everyone's so valuable to the team," coach Hind said. "Nick (Martonis) the last two games, he didn't come out of the game. He just limited (Anderson) to how many times he touched the ball. Nick didn't do it alone. There were four guys behind him helping him who were just as important."
The Panthers (15-8) still put up quite the fight as the teams exchanged leads during the second half, with East tying the game at 42-42 on a bank shot by Jahahd Maryon. Whenever a Panther tried to go to the basket for points after that, he met resistance in the form of 6-foot-5 senior rim protector Kaleb Frink and his 6-3 classmate Lecceadone. Both combined to make four blocks with Frink making three of them in crunch time. He had six of the team's seven for the game.
Lecceadone gave the Cardinals the lead for good hitting a pair of free throws with 3:04 left. He then swatted an attempted jumper that led to Tyler Hind adding two more free throws to increase Randolph's lead to 46-42.
"Defense has definitely been key all season," Lecceadone said. "Down the stretch we were able to execute."
The Thunderbirds (20-3) completed their season-long quest of returning to the C1 final just to win it. They have Pope and Swan to thank for it.
The two scored each of the team's 23 points during the fourth quarter after the teams went into the frame tied 45-45.
Cleveland Hill more than hit its stride at the right time after ending the regular season with three losses in four games. The Golden Eagles (14-9) had a legitimate shot at winning the title, holding leads of 35-32 at halftime and 45-39 late in the third.
That's when the Thunderbirds started to soar with Swan draining a three followed by a three-point play from Pope – who averaged 28.2 points per game during the regular season. Swan drained a three that broke the game's final tie with 4:31 left and followed that with a layup to end Cleve Hill's title quest.
Seven Eagles scored with three in double-figures, led by Paul Woodward's 19 points.
"The better team won today," Cleve Hill coach Jason Przybysz said. "We played our hearts out. We were unable to stop drives to the hole and finishes down the stretch. … I'm very proud of our guys. They battled all game long."