Olean waited an entire year for this feeling.
In last year’s Far West Regionals, the now three-time Section VI Class B champions were on the verge of a repeat trip to the state final four in Glens Falls before being stunned by a three-point buzzer-beater by Batavia in a 63-62 loss at Blue Cross Arena.
On Saturday afternoon at Buffalo State, the Huskies finally, officially, moved past that loss.
Olean dominated from the start in the kind of basketball clinic that the senior-laden standout team has put on throughout the postseason as it routed Section V (Rochester area) champion Charlotte, 75-56.
“I told the guys that we had unfinished business to take care of after the way it finished for us last season,” Olean coach Jeff Anastasia said. “I’m just so proud of these guys – from one to 15, they’ve been a great group. These seniors – I don’t want it to end, I don’t want to say goodbye to them because they’re a special group and I’m just so happy for them and the rest of the team.”
Olean (20-3) advances to the New York State Public High School Athletic Association final four at the Glens Falls Civic Center, the second trip in three seasons for senior starters Wil Bathurst (21 points, 10 rebounds), Sam Eckstrom (21 points, 13 rebounds), Nick Schmidt (19 points, three three-pointers), Luke Hennessy (five rebounds, three assists, two steals) and Dante Tarr (10 points, seven assists).
“It feels real great – not making it last year hurt, it hurt a lot,” Bathurst said. “We went as sophomores, this starting five, so it feels good to go back. We’re ready to go back.”
The Huskies will play in the state semifinals at 6:45 p.m. Friday against Section I (Westchester County area) champion Woodlands, which beat Section XI (Suffolk County, L.I.) champion Southampton, 73-49, Friday in a downstate regional.
“We’re really happy right now – everything came together at this point,” Eckstrom said. “Just a couple of more steps to take and we want to take those steps.”
Olean jumped to a 22-12 start on Charlotte (13-10) in a first quarter that featured Olean’s good defense, smart transition, great ball movement and finishing.
Two straight fast breaks were started by the defense of Eckstrom (one block, one tip steal), and on both senior Dante Tarr kicked it out to Schmidt for threes, one from the right side, one from the left. Bathurst finished a fast break with a one-handed jam after a week in which he did not practice twice due to a sore ankle. Eckstrom added a putback at the horn for the 10-point lead.
The Huskies’ lead was 40-24 after an 18-12 second quarter that ended with another Eckstrom tip-in. A minute into the third quarter, an Eckstrom layup off a beautiful Hennessy laser pass inside and a Schmidt putback put Olean’s lead at 44-24. The lead would reach 25 in the third. It was 60-41 entering the fourth.
“We’re playing as a team,” Schmidt said. “We’ve been playing really well together. When we move the ball around, that’s when we’re at our best and right now we’re playing at our best.”