Randolph Boys Win State Title
GLENS FALLS — In a New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class C semifinal Friday, Randolph senior Jaiden Huntington had far from his best game, but the Cardinals managed to get past the No. 1 team in the state for a spot in Saturday’s final against Section I’s Haldane at Cool Insuring Arena.
After the semifinal win Huntington told his head coach Kevin Hind “I got you tomorrow.”
In the biggest and final basketball game of his career, the senior kept true to his word.
Huntington hit eight 3-pointers and scored a game-high 28 points to lead Randolph to its first state championship in basketball with a 58-55 victory over the Blue Devils.
“I knew that this team we were playing was a real solid team and I needed to show up for my teammates,” Huntington said. “My teammates showed up yesterday and I felt like I wasn’t a big part of that on the offensive end, so I really had to dial in and show that I’m there for them.”
Huntington scored half of his points in the third quarter alone, making four 3-pointers to build a 48-30 lead going into the final quarter. The entire 18-point lead was needed.
With its season on the ropes, Haldane decided to play its best quarter, opening with an 8-0 run that shifted all the momentum in its favor.
“I thought ‘I can’t believe we’re going to win the state championship’ at the time,” Coach Hind said about Randolph’s 18-point lead. “But a couple of my guys I started seeing the pressure getting to them a little bit, the foul trouble mounting up, the lack of depth mounting up, bank shots going in. Bad decisions, the big lights are shining, it’s no different than missing a 6-inch putt where you make a 1,000 out of 1,000 until the pressure is on where you see that happen.”
The Blue Devils were sparked by their star senior Matteo Cervone scoring 10 of his team-high 20 points in the final quarter and Ryan Eng-Wong adding 9 points, including a crucial triple to cut Randolph’s lead to 57-55 with 33.4 seconds left.
While it was Huntington and fellow senior Carson Conley that built Randolph’s lead with 28 and 15 points, respectively, the game was put in the hands of a jayvee call-up, freshman Cooper Freeman.
Freeman who has starred for the jayvees all season long, found himself taking a trip to the free-throw line with a chance to not only score his first varsity points, but essentially put the game away. Freeman went 1 for 2 from the line, but that’s all Randolph would need as it extended the lead to 58-55.
“I was so nervous,” Freeman said. “Coming up as a freshman … I was just so nervous being up there. My heart was pounding through my chest. … I didn’t want it, (Drew Hind) passed it to me and I was like ‘Oh, no’ and when they fouled me I had to hit this one at least.
“Absolutely not,” Freeman added when asked if that was how he thought he would score his first varsity point. “I figured it might have been an easy layup or something.”
However, just because Freeman increased the Randolph lead, it didn’t mean that Haldane was out of it. There was a chance to tie with 16 seconds left in the game. The Blue Devils managed to get 3-point looks for Eng-Wong, Cervone and Bradley, but none went down as Randolph hung on for its first state title.
Coach Hind’s long 19-year wait to get back to Glens Falls couldn’t have ended any better way than with him at the bottom of the dog-pile with a group of players that shared the same goal since third grade. The group included his son, Drew, who scored 8 points and handed out eight assists, and his older son, Tyler, who helped on the Randolph bench after a stellar high school career that led him to NCAA Division II Daemen College.
“It means everything,” Coach Hind said about being able to win with his family. “I’ve got my wife doing scorebook, she’s doing all the team dinners, she’s running to the laundromat, she went and got the subs. Tyler his whole break he’s on the bus with me. He’s at college so I’m not seeing him a lot anymore. We’ve been a straight basketball family since we were here last time when Tyler was 2 years old and (wife, Laurie) remembers carrying him down those stairs trying not to trip and fall. Those two boys have worked their tails off.”
Huntington was named the Class C tournament’s Most Valuable Player after his 28-point performance.
The Cardinals hit an incredible 15 3-point goals and made just four 2-pointers, forcing the Haldane offense centered around its 6-foot-5 senior to play beyond the arc.