ROCHESTER - As has been their custom this basketball postseason, the Sherman Wildcats got off to a fast start in Saturday afternoon's Class C Far West Regional.
In fact, for the first half one might have mistaken Blue Cross Arena for the friendly confines of their high school gym on Park Street in the village.
Sherman made it look that easy.
Sherman’s Andrew Graham drives to the basket during Saturday’s Class D Far West Regional at the Blue Cross Arena. See additional photos at cu.post-journal.com.
P-J photo by Scott Kindberg
Andrew Graham and Devin Moorhead scored on strong drives to the hoop, Graham drilled a 3-pointer and Moorehead scored on another drive. And after Ryan Robson collected yet another layup courtesy of a nifty Graham pass, the Wildcats led University Prep of Section 5, 12-1, and the first quarter wasn't even half over.
"We always tell the guys that basketball game is a game of runs," Sherman coach Cory Emory said.
Unfortunately for Sherman, the Griffins had more of them.
By halftime, the 3-year-old Rochester charter school, featuring eighth-, ninth- and 10th-graders, had grabbed the lead and slowly extended it on their way to a 71-55 victory and a berth in next weekend's New York State Public High School Athletic Association final four in Glens Falls.
The win improved University Prep to 19-3 while the Wildcats finish 16-6.
"We said that if they were able to make a bunch of 3s, then they're probably going to beat us," Emory said.
And that's exactly what the Griffins did.
All told, they connected on 9-of-22 from the arc, including 5-of-13 in the first half. Three of the treys came in the final three minutes of the first quarter, which helped erase the Wildcats' early lead. Sherman led by two points, 18-16, after eight minutes.
"We needed to cut off dribble penetration, which we did pretty well," Emory said, "and we needed to find their shooters. ... I bet of their nine threes, probably five or six were NBA depth. Hey, if they're going to make those ..."
Freshman Brandon Hunt had three treys in the first half, while Quillian Leach-Alexander and Devin Green - also ninth-graders - added one apiece to give University Prep a 32-28 lead at the break. Graham led the Wildcats with 11 points.
"What was successful for us was the halfcourt (sets)," Emory said. "We were executing well and still getting some easy shots, so it makes you want to rev up and play the game a little faster, which started to fit in their mold a little bit better."
Neither team was able to pull away for much of the third quarter until the Griffins went on an 11-2 run in the final two minutes that transformed a 42-40 lead into a 53-42 advantage by the end of the period. Highlighting the surge were a 3-pointer and a traditional three-point play by Leah-Alexander and another trey by sophomore Cameron Mayes.
It was an uphill battle from there for Sherman, which began to turn the ball over with more frequency (it had 15 turnovers in the second half) and never got closer than seven points the rest of the way.
"We were making (layups)l early and then I think they adjusted their help defense," Emory said. "They got there a little bit quicker and we just couldn't buy a bucket. ... When we would take it to the hoop, that would allow them to leak out and they got some leak-out baskets."
With under two minutes remaining and the Griffins up by 18, both teams began to substitute liberally. As Emory greeted his starters at the bench, the large contingent of Sherman fans showed their appreciation for another strong season by their team.
"We have high expectations," said Emory, who returns all but one player next season, "but at the beginning of the year I do think a lot of them didn't understand how good they could be. They didn't understand that we could make it here. They thought we were a two-year project. All of a sudden ... we started to gain confidence.
"They gave it all they had (Saturday), but University Prep played a great game and knocked down a bunch of shots. Give them all the credit. For being young guys, they can really play."
NOTES: Jordan Marshall led University Prep with 20 points, Myles had 13, and Hunt and Green added 10 apiece. ... Myles also grabbed 10 rebounds. ... Graham paced Sherman with 17 points, while Nathan Ottaway had 10 points and eight rebounds and Jake Card had eight points and 10 boards. ... Sherman shot 25-of-59 from the floor compared to 26-of-56 for the Griffins. ... The Huskies also held a 42-26 rebounding advantage.
Graham 8 0 17, Robson 2 0 4, Moorhead 2 0 4, Myers 3 0 7, Card 3 1 8, Gleason 1 0 3, Luden 0 0 0, Boland 1 0 2, Greiner 0 0 0, Ames 0 0 0, Ottaway 5 0 10, Totals 25 3 55.
UNIVERSITY PREP (71)
Hunt 3 1 10, Simkin 3 0 6, Leach-Alexander 3 1 9, Myles 4 3 13, Marshall 9 2 20, Green 3 3 10, Delgado-Harris 0 0 0, Robinson 1 0 3, Williams 0 0 0, Ware 0 0 0, Smith 0 0 0, Curenton 0 0 0, Barker 0 0 0, Scott 0 0 0, Totals 26 10 71.
3-point goals: Graham, Card, Hunt 3, Leach-Alexander 2, Myles 2, Green, Robinson.
Sherman18 10 14 13 - 55
University Prep16 16 21 18 - 71