OESJ boys punch ticket to semifinals

Oppenheim-Ephratah/St. Johnsville's Elias Sanchez (33) drives past Hawthorne Valley's Aryell Schaffer during Saturday's Section II Class D quarterfinal game at Stillwater High School. (The Leader-Herald/James A. Ellis)

STILLWATER — After playing their last game on Feb. 13, the Oppenheim-Ephratah-St. Johnsville boys seemed a bit disheveled in the opening half of Saturday’s Section II Class D quarterfinal game at Stillwater High School.

The top-seeded Wolfpack struggled offensively with unforced turnovers that allowed eighth-seeded Hawthorne Valley to lead the majority of the first half before OESJ took the lead in the final seconds of the second quarter to take a 22-21 lead into the locker room.

The Wolfpack emerged from the locker room with a new outlook and outscored the Wildcats 45-19 in the second half to take home a 67-40 victory and advance to play No. 4 Argyle in a Class D semifinal game a 6 p.m. Monday at the Cool Insuring Arena in Glens Falls.

“I told them they were doing things they hadn’t done all year and to go back to what we have done all year,” said OESJ coach Jason Brundage of his halftime talk with the team. “We have played too much to act like that. They seemed to relax by the time I got done peeling the paint. You could see it in the second half. In the first half we were throwing passes 90 miles per hour at people instead of bouncing it. In the second half we got back to passing the ball correctly.”

Hawthorne Valley used its outside shooting ability to connected for four 3-pointers in the opening quarter, while OESJ tried to attack on the inside but came up on the short end of the 14-11 first-quarter score.

Turnovers continued to plague the Wolves in the second quarter but their defense kept the game close and with 1.5-seconds left in the opening half, Jack Brundage drove through the lane for a lay-up to give Oppenheim-Ephratah/St. Johnsville a 22-21 halftime advantage.

“Not playing over vacation it tough,” coach Brundage said. “After 12 days off and winning a big game against Gibbons it took 16 minutes for them to figure it out I think.”

Elias Sanchez and Tyler Leon finished three-point plays and Devyn Jones hit a 3-pointer in the opening 90 seconds of the second half to push OESJ’s lead to 31-21 before Jonas Davis hit a 3-pointer for Hawthorne Valley to break the run.

The Wolfpack continued to play at an upbeat pace and stretched its lead with Travis LaFountain hitting a lay-up at the buzzer to give Oppenheim-Ephratah/St. Johnsville a 44-29 advantage heading into the fourth quarter.

Sanchez and Leon continued to find success driving to the hoop and drawing fouls along the way putting the Wildcats, who had a limited bench, in foul trouble as they closed out the 67-40 victory.

“We held one of their leading scorers to three points and the team to 40 when they have been averaging 56,” coach Brundage said. “We wanted to keep them in the 40s and hit 60 and we did.”

Jonas Davis hit four 3-pointers in his 16-point effort for Hawthorne Valley, while Owen Wendell-Braly finished with 11 and Aryell Schaffer finished with five points.

Leon led Oppenheim-Ephratah/St. Johnsville with his game-high 21 points, while Jones had 16 and Sanchez finished with 14 points.

The Wolfpack will now turn its attention to defending Class D champion Argyle in Monday’s semifinal game.

The fourth-seeded Scots advanced to the semifinals with a 76-57 victory over No. 5 New Lebanon.

Also advancing to the Class D Final Four in Glens Falls were third-seeded Whitehall, which defeated sixth-seeded Fort Ann, 69-47 Saturday and second-seeded Germantown advanced with an 84-48 win over 10th-seeded Hartford.

“It doesn’t matter what their [Argyle] record or seed is, it is going to be a tough game,” coach Brundage said. “We will try to turn it around in a day and get after it.”

Oppenheim-Ephratah/St. Johnsville 67, Hawthorne Valley 40

Hawthorne Valley 14 7 8 11 — 40

Oppenheim-Ephratah/St. Johnsville 11 11 22 23 — 67

Hawthorne Valley

C. Davis 1-0-3, J. Davis 6-0-16, Lopez 1-0-3, Schaffer 2-1-5, Wendell-Braly 4-1-11, Disbrow 1-0-2. Totals: 15-2-40.

Oppenheim-Ephratah/St. Johnsville

Brundage 4-1-9, Cooper 1-0-3, Grant 1-0-2, Jones 5-4-16, LaFountain 1-0-2, Leon 9-3-21, Sanchez 5-4-14. Totals: 26-12-67.

3-point goals: Hawthorne Valley 8 (Jonas Davis 4, Owen Wendell-Braly 2, Christopher Davis, Gabe Lopez); Oppenheim-Ephratah/St. Johnsville 3 (Devyn Jones 2, Colton Cooper).