Oppenheim-Ephratah/St. Johnsville loses to Whitehall in Class D championship game
GLENS FALLS — With both teams looking to end championship droughts, Oppenheim-Ephratah/St. Johnsville and Whitehall squared off in the Section II Class D title game Saturday afternoon at the Cool Insuring Arena in Glens Falls.
Third-seed Whitehall kept the top-seeded Wolfpack within striking distance as they teams were deadlocked at 42 apiece with 1:30 left in the third quarter.
The Railroaders went on a 13-5 run through the end of the third quarter through the first six minutes of the fourth period to build a 56-49 advantage.
Evan St. Claire hit a 3-pointer for Whitehall with 1:57 remaining that would be the final field goal of the game for Whitehall.
However, the Railroaders converted on 12 of 16 free throws in the closing minutes to upset the Wolfpack 71-60 and claim their first Section II basketball title since 1971.
“There were a lot of these guys here today and that is what made this special,” Whitehall coach Keith Redmond said. “There is no better feeling in the world right now than winning this championship.”
For the Western Athletic Conference champion Wolfpack, it was their second appearance in the past three years in the title game only to come up on the short-end of the final score.
“That is something special about these kids,” OESJ coach Jason Brundage said. “This is our sixth final and some teams never get here. We have lost more than we won but it is not due to lack of effort. Nobody truly knows what these kids have had to deal with.”
With the victory, Whitehall moves on to the Regional tournament and will face the Section VII and defending Class D state champion Moriah Saturday in Plattsburgh.
Moriah advanced with an 80-54 victory over Crown Point in the Section VII Class D title game.
The Railroaders used their outside shooting ability to grab an early lead hitting four 3-pointers in the quarter, while Devyn Jones hit a pair of 3s for OESJ and Jack Brundage added six points to put the score at 23-16 and the end of the opening quarter.
The OESJ defense took over in the second quarter, holding Whitehall to eight points, while exploiting its inside game to take a 32-31 lead into the locker room at the break.
Evan St. Claire hit a 3-pointer early in the third quarter that started a 6-0 run before Zach Mosher hit a 3-pointer to for the Wolfpack to put the score at 37-35.
The teams exchanged baskets until Elias Sanchez converted on a pair of free throws with 2:33 left in the quarter to tie the game at 42 apiece.
St. Claire put the Railroaders ahead 44-42 before Dawson Procella hit a 3-pointer and a field goal to stretch the lead to 49-42 before Jones hit a 3-pointer in the closing seconds to sent the game into the final eight minutes with OESJ trailing 49-45.
St. Claire and Sanchez exchanged baskets in the opening minute of the final stanza before the Whitehall defense forced the OESJ ball handlers to turn the ball over four times as the Railroaders stretched their advantage to 56-47 before Brundage hit a field goal to end the run at 56-49.
St. Claire dampened the Wolfpack’s hope of a rally with a straight-away 3-pointer with 1:57 left in regulation.
The Wolfpack began fouling to get possession but the Railroaders responded with a 12-for-16 performance from the free-throw line to lock up the Class D championship.
“We were down one at the half and I told them that we were right where we needed to be because we are a better second-half team,” Redmond said. “We got down a little bit early but they fought back and we made the free throws at the end. I couldn’t be happier for them. These kids deserve this.”
St. Claire finished the game with 28 points, including four 3-pointers, 13 rebounds and four assists. Procella also had four 3-pointers in his 19-point, four rebounds effort and Danny St. Clair added 14 points, six rebounds and four assists.
“We knew they were a good team from when we saw them last year and it was even more evident when we watched hours and hours of film on them,” coach Brundage said. “They had three shooters and I am not taking anything away from my team, they played hard, but sometimes they just got free.”
Tyler Leon led OESJ with 17 points, seven rebounds two steals, a block and an assist. Sanchez added a double-double of 13 points and 10 rebounds, while Jones had 12 points, five rebounds and two assists and Jack Brundage finished with eight points, eight assists, three rebounds and a steal.
St. Claire was named the tournament MVP and was joined on the all-tournament team by Procella, OESJ’s Jones and Leon, Aryle’s Peyton Lufkin and Germantown’s Wyatt Gibbons.
Oppenheim-Ephratah/St. Johnsville closes out the season with a 20-3 overall record.
Whitehall 71, Oppenheim-Ephratah/St. Johnsville 60
Whitehall 23 8 18 22 — 71
Oppenheim-Ephratah/St. Johnsville 16 16 13 15 — 60
St. Clair 5-6-17, St. Claire 8-8-28, Procella 7-1-19, Eddy 2-0-4. Totals: 23-16-71.
Brundage 3-2-8, Mosher 1-1-4, Cooper 1-0-3, Jones 4-1-12, Dolder 1-0-3, Sanchez 5-3-13, Leon 7-2-17. Totals: 22-9-60.
3-point goals: Whitehall 9 (Even St. Claire 4, Dawson Procella 4, Daniel St. Clair); OESJ 7 (Devyn Jones 3, Zach Mosher, Colton Cooper, Duston Dolder, Tyler Leon).