JOHNSTOWN - The Canajoharie Cougars' game plan worked effectively in the opening half of Friday's Western Athletic Conference Cup championship game.
However, the aggressive defensive play took its toll on the Cougars in the second half.
Mekeel Christian Academy was sharp from the free-throw line converting 28 of 35 attempts to secure the WAC Cup title with a 64-41 victory.
Canajoharie’s Josh Gonzalez (44) and Mekeel Christian’s Spencer Bath battle as they knock a rebound away during first-half action in the WAC Cup championship game Friday night at Fulton-Montgomery Community College. (The Leader-Herald/James A. Ellis)
"We had a couple of fantastic practices and the guys were geared up and ready to go," Canajoharie coach Phil Schoff said. "We executed our game plan to the T in the first quarter. Then the second quarter, we backed off a bit and stopped attacking and they started attacking us. One of the keys we had to prevent was getting in foul trouble and getting in foul trouble is what hurt us."
Canajoharie got off to a fast start with Josh Gonzalez pumping in six first-quarter points and Dillon Veeder hitting a 3-pointer help put the Cougars up 11-7.
Mekeel Christian battled back in the second period with Courtney Penson hitting a pair of long-distance baskets, while Caleb Stewart added 10 points, six of which came from the free-throw line to help give the Lions a 25-19 halftime lead.
The Cougars remained aggressive in the third quarter, keeping pace with Mekeel Christian, but the Lions hit three 3-pointers and and converted 6 of 7 free throws to take an eight-point lead, 40-32, into the final eight minutes.
The Lions took control of the game in the fourth quarter, scoring 11 points from the field and 13 from the free-throw line to outscore Canajoharie 24-9 and lock up the 64-41 victory.
"When you hold Caleb Stewart to four field goals and he ends up with 30, you know you did your job halfway," Schoff said. "But the other half is you can't give him fouls when he is that good at the foul line. It is a testament to them, they knocked down free throws and champions make free throws."
Gonzalez finished with 20 points, 13 rebounds and five blocked shots for the Cougars (15-3), while Bowerman finished with 12 points and Zach Folts pulled down 10 rebounds. Dillan Veeder finished with five points and six assists.
Stewart shot 21-for-21 from the free-throw line en route to his 30 point performance, while Mano Senthil also hit double-digits with 10.
"Canajoharie did a great job and coach Schoff had his guys ready to go," Mekeel Christian coach Chad Bowman said. "It was a very close game at halftime. In the second half, we got into a little better rhythm. With Caleb, we were a little more determined to go to that matchup and he ended up going 21-for-21 from the line."
Canajoharie, the fourth-seed in the Section II Class C tournament will host No. 13 Voorheesville on Wednesday in its opening-round game.
"Looking at the loss the last one was on Dec. 12. We don't have this taste in our mouth," Schoff said. "The last time we lost we went on a [12 game] win streak that lasted two months. So I am hoping this loss, instead of being a downfall, is going to be a breakthrough."
Mekeel Christian 64, Canajoharie 41
Canajoharie11 8 13 9 - 41
Mekeel Christian Academy7 18 15 24 - 64
Bowerman 3-4-12, Folts 1-0-2, Gonzalez 9-2-20, Sala 1-0-2, Veeder 2-0-5. Totals: 16-6-41.
Mekeel Christian Academy
Bath 0-2-2, Miller 2-1-5, Newman 1-0-2, Penson 2-1-7, Senthil 4-0-10, Sexton 2-3-8, Stewart 4-21-30. Totals: 15-28-64.
3-point goals: Canajoharie 3 (Bowerman 2, Veeder); Mekeel Christian 6 (Penson 2, Senthil 2, Sexton, Stewart).
Berne-Knox-Westerlo 61, Mekeel Christian 55
JOHNSTOWN - Liz Harvey finished with 34 points to lead Berne-Knox-Westerlo to a win over Mekeel Christian in the WAC Cup championship at Fulton-Montgomery Community College.
Sarah Abbott added nine points for the Lady Bulldogs (17-1 overall).
Macie Holmes scored 21 points to lead Mekeel Christian (11-7 overall), while Emily Taplin finished with 17. Lexie Holmes added 11 points for the Lions.
Berne-Knox-Westerlo 61, Mekeel Christian 55
Mekeel Christian15 16 12 12 - 55
Berne-Knox-Westerlo11 13 18 19 - 61
Bath 1-0-2, L. Holmes 3-3-11, M. Holmes 7-2-21, Pigliavento 2-0-4, Taplin 6-0-17. Totals 19-5-55.
Abbott 3-3-9, Cunningham 3-0-6, Harvey 10-12-34, McCormick 1-2-4, K. Salo 2-0-4, M. Salo 2-0-4. Totals 21-17-61.
3-point goals: Mekeel Christian 12 (M. Holmes 5, Taplin 5, L. Holmes 2); Berne-Knox-Westerlo 2 (Harvey 2).