Strong second half lifts OESJ past Wells
TROY — If there was any doubt by Wells coach Adam Clute of how his team was going to react playing in the Regional Championship game, his got his answer early.
The Section VII champions outscored Section II champion Oppenheim-Ephratah/St. Johnsville 10-9 in the opening quarter and backed it up with a 15-14 second quarter to take a 25-23 lead into the locker room at the break.
However, OESJ found it rhythm early in the second half to outscore the Indians 34-15 over the final two periods to lock up the Regional Championship with a 57-40 victory over Wells Saturday at Hudson Valley Community College.
“We switched out defense and the kids got the message,” OESJ coach Jason Brundage said. “I think they had 25 points at half time and we only gave up 28 points last week. So, obviously, we weren’t happy with our defensive effort so we made the adjustments.”
OESJ advances to the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class D final four and will face Section VI champion Panama, which advanced to the final four with a 56-51 victory over Section V champion Belfast. They are joined by Section X champion Harrisville, which upset Lyme, the top-ranked team in the state rankings, 64-56 punch their ticket to the championships. The final spot will be decided today when Section IV champion Marathon takes on Bridgehampton of Section XI.
The NYSPHSAA championships will be played Saturday and Sunday at the Floyd L. Maines Veterans Memorial Arena in Binghamton.
Riding a 16-game win streak, Wells (17-7) found itself in an early hole as the Wolfpack’s Tyler Leon connected for a pair of baskets in the low post and Jayden Logan-Dillenbeck scored on a putback to stake OESJ to a 6-0 lead.
Shane Kennedy got the Indians on the scoreboard with a pair of free throws to spark a 10-3 run to put Wells up 10-9 at the end of the opening quarter.
Byron Stuart opened the second quarter with a 3-pointer for the Indians to up the lead to 13-9.
However, the Wolfpack battled back and got the lead back on back-to-back baskets from Leon for a 23-22 advantage.
The lead did not last long as Stuart hit his third 3-pointer of the quarter with 10-seconds left to give Wells a 25-23 lead at the break.
“We knew we were like an underdog, but we kind of enjoy that because we have been like an underdog all year,” Wells coach Adam Clute said. “It has been a motivation for my guys. They love competing and they were confident at halftime, but I think we got tired and we tried to do a couple different things on defense but they didn’t pan out.”
Leon hit a basket early in the third quarter to tie the game before Tyler Bolebruch connected on a deep 3-pointer for the Indians to retake the lead.
The OESJ offense began to hit its stride with extended possessions and moving the ball to get their shooters clear looks at the basket.
The Wolves put together a 19-5 run that was capped off by back-to-back 3-pointers from Zack Mosher and Chris Martin to take a 44-33 lead into the final eight minutes of play.
“I don’t know if he [point guard Jack Brundage] was worried about his shot going in or what it was in the first half,” coach Brundage said. “He got back in his game in the second half and once we have Jack and Tyler going that way then the other kids follow them and we get pretty confident.”
The Indians cut the lead to single digits 44-38) early in the final quarter on baskets from Kennedy and Coby Stuart before OESJ responded with a pair of baskets from Logan-Dillenbeck and a a 3-pointer from Brundage to take the lead up to 51-38 with 3:45 left to play.
The Wolfpack continued to chew up the clock with extended offensive plays and and made 4-of-9 free throws in the final minute to lock up the 57-40 final score.
“Their shooters were on tonight and it is tough to guard a team that is good both inside and outside and has someone who can control the point like Jack [Brundage] does,” Clute said. “We weren’t really prepared for them to be face-guarding a couple of our guys. We had plans for if they face-guarded one of our guys, but when they started covering two, we had to try to come up with something. We will make sure to prepare for that next year.”
Kennedy led Wells with 12 points, nine rebounds and a block, while Byron Stuart finished with nine points, four rebounds and three assists and Tre Zimmerman added with points, 10 rebounds and an assist. Coby Stuart chipped in with six points, four rebounds, three assists and two steals and Bolebruch added five points and seven rebounds.
“I just look at it like when teams work hard and do things the right way they win,” Clute said. “My team played hard all year round and work hard to get ready for the season. We are trying to do it the right way and I know I have some kids coming back next season, who were on the bench, were on the cusp of starting. So we have some things coming up the pipe that I hope will continue this success. I cannot be more proud of a team. They battled every night and when we were down and out they found a way to step up and win. We are a small town and there are about 600 people that live there and probably the majority of them were here tonight. They love basketball up there and I am just proud to be a part of it.”
Leon led all scorers with his double-double of 25 points and 10 rebounds to go with three assists and two steals. Logan-Dillenbeck finished with 10 points, six rebounds, three assists and three steals, while Brundage added seven points, five rebounds and five assists and Travis LaFountain added seven rebounds, six assists and five points.
“I can’t put a number on how proud I am but let me say I have had some great teams over the years and we have won 42 games in the last two years,” coach Brundage said. “Jayden Logan-Dillenbeck had double-figures today and he went a month-and-a-half without scoring. He just kept coming to practice every day and worked in the shoot-arounds and kept doing what we asked him to do. I have guys on the bench who help alot. They have all bought in and want to keep that score as low as possible. Friday is the last day we can practice high school basketball in the state of New York and we are still practicing. That is pretty cool.”
Looking forward to next Saturday’s game against Panama, coach Brundage said, “We have to get their minds back in their heads and keep them grounded. We will figure out who we have to play next and come up with a plan and do the best we can.”
Tip-off is slated for 12:45 p.m. with the Class D state championship game set to be played Sunday at 2 p.m.
Class D Regional championship
Oppenheim-Ephratah/St. Johnsville 57, Wells 40
Wells 10 15 8 7 — 40
Oppenheim-Ephratah/St. Johnsville 9 14 21 13 — 57
C. Stuart 3-0-6, Bolebruch 2-1-5, B. Stuart 3-0-9, Zimmerman 3-2-8, Kennedy 4-4-12. Totals: 15-6-40.
Brundage 2-2-7, Logan-Dillenbeck 4-1-10, Mosher 2-0-6, Martin 1-0-3, Bonneau 0-1-1, LaFountain 1-3-5, Leon 12-1-25. Totals: 22-8-57.
3-point goals: Wells 4 (Byron Stuart 3, Tyler Bolebruch); OESJ 5 (Zack Mosher 2, Jack Brundage, Jayden Logan-Dillenbeck, Chris Martin).