GLENS FALLS — For much of Friday afternoon’s Class C state semifinal, it was as if the Silver Creek boys basketball team was playing on a tightrope.
It played a tentative first half, shook itself awake with a forceful third quarter, but at the same time that it claimed a decent lead, a team that had somehow gone 23 games without a defeat playing almost exclusively with its five starters found itself in the worst kind of foul trouble. Senior leader and offensive orchestrator Zed Williams picked up his fourth foul with 2:11 left in the third. He was able to remain in the game until there were seven seconds left, but at that point things had fallen out of balance for the Black Knights.
Pine Plains scored the final eight points of the game to beat Silver Creek, 52-49, before an estimated 5,000 at the Glens Falls Civic Center and advance to today’s New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class C championship game.
“There’s not much that you can say to them that makes them feel better, there’s really not much anyone can say to me to make it feel better,” Silver Creek coach Rob Genco said. “It hurts, it really does. You just hope that with the loss that they learn from it and they get the big picture. This journey wasn’t about wins, those were bonuses.”
Section IX champion Pine Plains, a tall team hailing from northern Dutchess County, will play local favorite Lake George of Section II (Albany area) for the state championship tonight at 7:15.
For Silver Creek (23-1), which came into the game ranked second behind Pine Plains (21-2) in the New York State Sportswriters Class C poll, its first loss would come in its last game as things unraveled in the final minutes.
Pine Plains took a 29-22 lead at the half before Silver Creek junior Kaine Kettle (14 points) shot Silver Creek back into the game by hitting three three-pointers in the first 1:36 of the third quarter, tying the score at 31. Silver Creek kept rolling in what would be a 19-8 third quarter, building as much as a 41-33 lead when Kettle hit two of three free throws with 1:53 left in the third.
Williams, who had two fouls at the half and finished with six points, picked up a third trying to pluck the ball from a scramble and then was hit with his fourth as he tried to slide in front of a drive to take a charge with 2:11 left in the third. He remained on the floor for almost the entirety of the game.
The Black Knights started the fourth quarter with a 41-37 lead. When one of 6-7 sophomore Bill Brooks’ four blocks led to a Kettle layup, then senior Steve Marcey (18 points, three three-pointers) hit a three off a kickout from Williams, Silver Creek pushed its lead to 48-41 with less than four minutes to go. It held a 49-44 lead with 2:19 to go after Kettle hit one of two free throws.
Pine Plains boasted a taller lineup of 6-4 senior point guard Justin Cooper (18 points, 9-15 free throws), 6-8 junior Tyler Lydon (10 points, 16 rebounds), 6-9 senior Zach Lydon (10 and 8) and 6-6 junior Adam Miller (10 and 9), but for much of the game the Bombers could not get shots to fall (17 for 73 from the field for 23.2 percent).
In the final moments, it was Silver Creek that couldn’t get a shot down. On Kettle’s miss of the second free throw with 2:19 left, Brooks (eight points, 13 rebounds) got the rebound but his putback wouldn’t go down. A putback by Tyler Lydon made it 49-46, a lead the Black Knights held into the final minute, when Marcey found himself all alone in the lane, only to have his lay-in bounce out off the back of the rim.
Sophomore starter Brennan White, who at 5-10 battled very well with the taller Bombers inside all game, fouled out when he fouled Cooper with 41.9 to play. Cooper hit both to cut it to 49-48.
Silver Creek called a timeout with the ball, 26.1 seconds left in the game and :19 on the shot clock, but Williams’ inbounds pass was stolen by Tyler Lydon. Cooper was fouled with 20.8 left and he again hit both to give Pine Plains a 50-49 lead.
Kettle took a kickout pass from Williams and missed a three from the left side, and Brooks’ follow attempt was blocked, ruled a tieup, and the ball went to Pine Plains with seven seconds left. Silver Creek was forced to foul, and it was Williams who did so with his fifth. Miller went 2 for 2 for the 52-49 margin.
“I feel sorry to my team – Kaine, Steve, Billy, they did their job,” Williams said. “I just had to play soft” with the four fouls.”
Pine Plains chose to foul instead of risk a game-tying three-pointer, and Marcey was fouled near midcourt. In an attempt to draw a shooting foul, Marcey let go of a halfcourt shot from the left sideline just after being fouled, and the ball remarkably banked in – but the foul was clearly whistled prior to the shot.
Marcey missed the front end of the one-and-one, got to the rebound and hustled to the three-point line on the left side, but his shot was short.
“It’s been a great journey,” Marcey said. “The Silver Creek community has been behind us the whole time. I’m going to miss it – I’m going to miss playing with Zed, Billy, Kaine, Brennan – those are my boys.”