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Section 2 Champs advance past Bears, Wildcats to Class B Final Four

Mar. 10—A fast start by the Albany Academy Girls and an electrified finish by the Stillwater Boys produced of sweep by Section 2 opponents in a doubleheader New York State Class B Regional Championship games at SUNY Potsdam on Saturday.

A pair of Section 10 Champions steeped in the fundamentals of the game and team play saw their seasons ended. Number one state-ranked Albany Academy downed 11th ranked Gouverneur 45-21 and number two ranked Stillwater turned back fourth ranked Canton 64-44 to move on their respective Final Four this coming weekend.

BOY GAME

Canton entered the game with Ethan Francey, half of it's First Team All-NAC Central senior backcourt, sidelined with a knee injury.

But things couldn't have gone much better in the first quarter.

The other half of the sterling guard tandem, NAC Central Co-MVP Ryan Jones, buried two three-pointers and scored 10 points leading the Golden Bears to a 17-14 lead.

It was also a best-case-scenario in the second quarter after Jones went to the bench with 6:17 left in the half after drawing his third personal foul. The Bears adjusted and adapted, and after Jones returned, cut a 28-19 deficit to a very manageable 30-28 at the half. Jones converted one of several spinning bank shot drives and came up with a steal which led to Zadok Roiger converting a layup at the buzzer.

Stillwater's answer was immediate and the Warriors (22-4) controlled all of the scenarios in the second half for a 64-44 win and a berth in the New York State Final Four next weekend. Lukas Lilac scored the first six points of the second half as the Warriors quickly opened a 38-28 lead. Lilac also hammered home a driving dunk for a 41-32 lead after another drive by Roiger cut the difference to a 38-32.

The lead stood at 50-38 when Kaelan Leak ignited a close-out burst. He buried threes on back-to-back possessions for 55-38 lead and then passed out three assists as Stillwater pulled away at end-game with fast breaks and clutch shots when the Warriors managed the shot clock.

Leak buried six threes in an 19 point, 6 rebound, 6 assist effort which led a winning offense which also featured 18 points from Lilac and 15 points and 10 rebounds from center Jaxon Mueller who delivered a high altitude block-swat off the backboard breaking up a Canton break with 3:30 to play.

Canton's Ryan Jones led all scorers with 21 points and passed out two assists and tallied seven points in the fourth quarter. The NCAA Division I Rider University Golf recruit went 7-11 from the field and 2-3 from 3-point range in finishing a three-year starting varsity career. Zadok Roiger capped a fine sophomore season with 12 points on 5-5 shooting, six rebounds and two assists.

"Ryan (Jones) is a great player and in the second half we put a smaller player on him. Carter Wicheins is a great defense player and we adjusted well to make him go right as much as we could," said Stillwater Coach Bruce Lilac.

"When we were able to do that, we slowed them down on offense and we got out and ran more. Kaelan Leak is such a great player for us. He plays with so much energy and today he led us to the finish."

Thomas McDonough delivered eight points to the winning tally and freshman James Cocozzo scored two while grabbing five defensive rebounds in the second half where the Warriors gained a 15-7 advantage on the boards (30-18 in the game) and outscored the Bears 34-16.

Center Jackson Ames hit two first half 3s scoring six points and grabbed a six-rebound total for Canton. Talan Green and Charlie Todd tallied three and two points for the Bears who were seeking a regional win at Maxcy Hall for a third straight season.

Canton Coach Troy Lassial praised his players for an accolades filled season which featured a 14-0 NAC Central Division Championship, a third straight sectional title (2 Class Bs, 1 C) and a third straight Overall Section 10 overall championship.

The Bears (21-4) started the season with three straight losses to highly ranked nonleague opponents in Westhill (Class A), Stillwater (Class B) and Harrisville (Class D) and then worked their way up to a number four state ranking.

"We played very hard again today but Stillwater is such a good team. They hit big 3s in the fourth quarter," said Coach Lassial.

"In the second half we just chased around too much and lost some defensive assignments. But we really had a great season."

GIRLS GAME

Number one state-ranked Albany Academy showed their two major tendencies in methodically advancing to the New York State Final 4 past a Gouverneur team which played with it signature tenacity.

The 21-3 Bear' received a quick barrage of three-pointers from sophomore Alex Leonard taking a 12-2 lead and went on to methodically post a 45-21 win. The Wildcats turned in a creditable defensive effort despite being outrebounded 37-21 but could not alter the Bears' tendency of showing extreme athleticism and acute anticipation in playing suffocating defense.

Leonard tallied a game-high 14 points with seven rebounds to lead the Bears who limited their three Section 2 Tournament opponents to 27-37 and 29 points and downed Section 7 champion Saranac 46-30 in the regional semi-finals.

Madison Leonard scored eight points, Eva Gitto tallied seven with five rebounds and Emily Thorton and Kira Ostovar each grabbed seven rebounds and scored two points.

"We have adapted well to the new game (basketball) on offense. We are always looking take 3-pointers and our goal is to make eight or nine a game. We do that very well for a young team. We only have two seniors," said Academy Coach Bryan Capitula.

"We also have a very good sense of playing defense. We have really been holding people down. We only allowed five points in the first half today. I am very pleased with the way this team plays."

The 11th ranked Wildcats (19-4) continued their season-long resiliency. After being held scoreless in the second quarter, Rylyn Martin-McIntyre scored four quick points after Eva Gitton tallied the first field goal of the second half for the Bears. McIntyre scored her team-high six points in the third quarter and Courtney Forsythe tallied five points with eight rebounds.

Meredith grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds with eight in the second half. Chloe Smith tallied four points with four assists and Caitlyn Storie (3), Renisa Richards (2) and Ashlyn Besaw (1) rounded out the scoring.

" I thought our girls played tough today and put up a good fight. We did cause some frustration for them at times, we could tell. In the end, they were better than us. I am not a supporter of private schools and their ability to "acquire" players from other districts and still play as a public school, but we have to play who we have to play, and we have to live with that. I will go to battle with our girls any day," said Gouverneur Coach Sean Devlin

"Again, we had a great supportive Wildcat crowd which made for another fun environment. Our Coaches are very lucky to have such great girls to have worked with this year. They have had a very successful varsity career. I thank them and their families for their dedication over the years. It has been a fun run with these Seniors and I look forward to seeing what the underclassmen can do in years to come."