How many first-team all-stars does it take to get to the state semifinals?
Before the boys' basketball season began, I asked Broadalbin-Perth coach Tucker Gifford who was poised to take over as the Patriots' go-to player after the graduation of Dan Schulz, who led the Patriots to the Section II Class B championship game last season.
He said he didn't know.
Didn't know when he would know.
I asked him again Friday night as he and the Patriots stood in the tunnel at the Glens Falls Civic Center. They were watching the last few minutes of the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class B semifinal between Seton Catholic and Malverne. B-P was waiting to take on Bishop Kearney in the other semifinal.
"I think it's still by committee," he said.
Throughout the season, the Patriots have been a team without that one guy. Instead, they had several who stepped into the role whenever they were called upon.
With Justin Boyles and Rob Norgard inside, Brian Blake, Connor Sheridan and Shane Hathaway outside, any one of the Patriots' starters could have led the team on any given night. It wasn't always with scoring, but sometimes with defense and sometimes as the distributor. Each of the five starters led B-P in scoring in at least two games.
It's real team-first ball. I'll get mine when mine is what we need.
I've seen it work at the college level, where the players are recruited from a national - or at least regional - talent pool. One need look no farther than Fulton-Montgomery Community College and what its men's team did two years ago, playing no-star ball all the way to the national Division-III tournament.
At the high school level, where you have to make due with the talent in your school district, I've never seen a team go nearly so deep without a player that stood out and dominated opposing defenses.
B-P played unselfish ball, starting with Hathaway, who wasn't named to the Foothills Council all-star team, first, second or otherwise. That's because his stats are not terribly eye-catching. However, take him out of the equation and the offense doesn't move too smoothly.
Boyles was named to the Foothills second team. Both Norgard and Blake made the third team.
The Patriots went farther into the postseason than any of their conference mates who had star players.
Sure, they ran into a buzzsaw Friday. Bishop Kearney had a defense that was long and tall.
And they were good, too.
The Kings were smart about their defense, reaching with purpose and precision for the ball to avoid too many fouls. They anticipated well, getting their hands on pass after pass.
The resulting lopsided score didn't do anything to soften the blow for the Patriots, the starters coming out of the game one at a time to a handshake from their coach before sitting stony-faced next to their teammates to await the final buzzer.
Nobody wants to think about what they've achieved when the season ends with a loss. At least, not for a few days.
The Patriots are state semifinalists.
Just as important an accomplishment for their program, though, is those Patriots who return next season will come back with an understanding of where no-star basketball can take a team.