JAMESTOWN — With just one senior on the roster and none in the starting lineup, Sherman was supposed to be a year away from contending in Class D.
As the season went along, coach Cory Emory and his junior-laden group started to believe this could be their year. The Wildcats affirmed that belief Friday, beating Cattaraugus County Athletic Association rival Brocton 40-27 in front of a standing-room only crowd at Jamestown Community College and claiming their first Section VI championship since 2002.
Second-seeded Sherman (16-5) is the only team to have beaten top-seed Brocton (17-2) this season, but it was a late-season loss to the Bulldogs that changed the course of the Wildcats’ season.
“From that point on, they have gotten consistently better at doing the little things, especially in the playoffs,” Emory said.
Sherman jumped out to an 8-0 lead in Friday’s rubber match but found itself down, 18-17, at the half. Neither team led by more than two points until midway through the fourth quarter, when junior captains Ryan Robson and Andrew Graham took over for the Wildcats.
Robson missed a three-pointer with the shot clock winding down but sank a second try after sophomore teammate Jake Card came up with the offensive rebound to put Sherman ahead, 32-27. Graham then created a steal, got fouled, and drained both free throws to give the Wildcats a seven-point lead with 2:26 remaining.
“We felt they were tiring and they were getting frustrated and we kind of feed off that,” Emory said.
“We got pumped up and started playing basketball like we do,” Robson said.
Graham sliced into the lane for a layup and then made two free throws on the next possession, pushing Sherman’s lead into double-digits with one minute to play. Sherman wound up scoring the game’s final 13 points.
“It’s a great feeling you get in your stomach,” Graham said. ‘We’ve been working really hard.”
All of Sherman’s points were scored by players who are returning next season. Both teams got all of their scoring from starters. Sherman will play the Section V Class D champion at noon next Saturday in Rochester.