JAMESTOWN – Sometimes a basketball team becomes a championship contender just because it is playing its best at the right time of the season.
Friday night’s Section VI Class D boys final provided two sterling examples of that because Sherman and North Collins started a combined 0-8 yet earned the right to duke it out for the championship.
They did, until the Wildcats sprung a trap to prevent Cinderella from having the championship ending for the first time in program history.
Sherman’s defense tipped the scales in its favor, as it caused the Eagles all sorts of problems during the middle quarters – enabling the Wildcats to earn a 54-40 victory at Jamestown Community College.
An estimated 1,000 watched Sherman win its first sectional crown since 2014, as Justiss Hannold (21) and John Swabik (18) each scored in double figures for the third-seeded Wildcats.
Sherman took the lead for good on Hannold’s three-pointer that broke a 5-5 tie just before the buzzer sounded to end the first quarter. The Wildcats’ defense opened the floodgates as they prevented a young North Collins team that beat top-seeded Panama, 47-46, in the semifinals on Tyler Robinson’s game-winning 3-pointer from half-court from posting another upset.
Sherman (14-9) returns to action Saturday, March 14 against the Section V champion in the New York State Public High School Athletic Association quarterfinal/Far West Regional game at Buffalo State Sports Arena.
“We’re not done yet,” Swabik said. “We’ve got bigger goals.”
Swabik scored 10 points during Sherman’s 21-point second quarter as the half-court trap flustered a North Collins team with its primary ballhandler on the bench in foul trouble.
The Wildcats blew it open late in the quarter as a 17-14 advantage grew into a comfortable lead via a 12-1 run blitz. Swabik, Hannold and Gerald Carris each had four points during the spree. Sherman led 29-19 at the break.
North Collins, a young team with just two seniors, pulled within 7 early in the third quarter, but the Wildcats replied with seven straight points in a span of 23 seconds to regain a comfortable lead. Carris drained a three to start it. He followed that with a steal and layup. Swabik then made a steal of his own for a layup.
“I believe they had their guard No. 5 (Christian Loretto) out and they had another guy dribbling the ball up and Gerald and I just read their shoulders,” Swabik said.
For Swabik, he now knows what it’s like to be a sectional champion in three sports. He helped Clymer/Sherman/Panama win back-to-back Section VI and state crowns in football. He’s also the reigning section and state champion in the pentathlon.
He joins football teammate Cam Barmore of Panama as a sectional champion in three sports. Swabik wants to do him one better and capture the state title in basketball.
“I would be unbelievable to go all the way in three different sports,” Swabik said. “It’d be crazy.”
Sherman started 0-2. There’s a reason for that.
“We started out 0-2 because we had that wonderful long football season,” Wildcats coach Cory Emory said. “So those first two games we were still football players and hadn’t turned into basketball players. … We’ve had five or six losses by three points or less so our record could be much better. We have a great group and they’ve just improved throughout the year.”
“We just worked good as a team,” Carris said. “We’ve pushed through the whole season and have done a good job. We’ve had bad games. We’ve had good games. We just keep moving forward.”
The loss stings for a North Collins (11-12), but the future could be bright considering it only loses two seniors to graduation.
“I’m so proud of what they did all year long, coming from one win last year to this year. That’s an accomplishment,” Eagles coach Jan Warren said. “Everybody bought into what we were doing, and it was a great year.”
— Harry Scull Jr (@hsjrphoto) March 6, 2020