South Kortright boys bring home state hoop title
By John Bernhardt
History making. There’s no other way to describe the enormity of what the South Kortright boys’ basketball team accomplished this season. After taking Glens Falls by storm this weekend, the Rams completed the final chapter of a storybook season by beating both Chateaugay and Greenport high schools to become New York State Class D Champions.
The dual victories energized the entire county and ended the Rams’ season with a perfect 26-0 record. Scouring the record books, it appears as if South Kortright is the only Section IV, Class D boys’ basketball team to ever become a state finalist and certainly stands as Section IV’s only Class D boys’ basketball champions.
Oddly, last weekend’s contests followed a similar script. The Rams found themselves trailing at halftime in both the semi-finals Friday morning and in the championship showdown Saturday evening. But, both times, SK roared back after intermission, using big turnarounds in the third quarter to point their compass toward the state title. Fierce defensive play and offensive rebounding were catalysts in both SK victories.
Lady luck shined brightly on SK at the start of title match. The Greenport Porters, overflowing with self-assurance, drove into the Civic Center in a bus sporting a huge sign proclaiming them as “State Champions.” The Porters staged an aerial dunk show during warm-ups and were assessed a technical foul. Eric Burns dropped in both foul shots giving SK a 2-0 bonus before the action really got underway.
Greenport’s Wally Sorenson stole the ball and dished a pass to Ryan Creighton at the top of the key. Creighton, who would become a familiar figure to the Rams, dropped in a smooth three-point goal to put the Porters in front. The basket would be the first of a steady stream of baskets by Creighton as the wide-bodied senior would challenge the SK defense all nightlong.
Kyle Hotaling teamed with Josh Palmatier to put the Rams back on top when the senior forward found his teammate cutting through the lane, and Palmatier hit a turnaround jumper in front of the foul line. Eric Burns followed by hitting Tanner Metzko with a long pass for the lay-up off the fast break. SK led, 6-3.
It became immediately obvious that SK’s defensive challenge would be to slow Creighton. The senior drove the inside, hanging in the air for a score and was fouled. The foul shot knotted the score at 6-6. The burly senior posted at the blocks for a twisting score moments later, and the Porters were back in front.
Little could weaken SK’s resolve. Burns used his trademark two-foot, jump-stop jumper, hitting a field goal two steps in front of the foul line to even the score.
A long offensive rebound turned into another SK hoop when Palmatier pulled up deep in the corner for two. Palmatier was in the thick of things a bit later when Rashawn Herrington pulled down an offensive board and found his senior teammate open near the foul line. Lifting to shoot, and at the top of his jump, Palmatier spotted Herrington breaking inside and fed him for an inside score and a 12-8 Rams’ lead.
Getting it back
Creighton countered again for Greenport, this time driving hard into the lane from the right wing, drawing a foul and hitting both charity shots. Sorenson stole another pass and drove to the basket, hitting one of two foul shots to pull the Porters closer. But, Herrington took a steal for an uncontested lay-up, beating the quarter horn by two seconds with the Rams in front, 14-11.
Creighton was proving to be a one-man scoring force for Greenport. The talented senior hit a hanging banker and followed with a hard drive down the left side of the lane to put the Porters back on top, 15-14.
SK roared back when Burns pulled down a long defensive rebound, shuffled a pass to Herrington, and the junior forward found Hotaling at the front of the fast break. Hotaling evaded the defense by going under the rim and finished a scoop drive for the score. Charlie Darling stole the ball and fed Herrington for a lay-up and an 18-15 SK advantage. The lead didn’t hold for long as Creighton continued his solitary assault by burying a three-point goal to even things up yet, again.
Herrington matched Creigh-ton’s long-range shooting display using an out-of-bounds series to nail a three-point goal. Dantre Langhorne drove the lane for the Porters, missed, but followed his shot with a put back. Langhorne was fouled and his free shot locked the score again, this time, at 21-21. Creighton pulled down a defensive rebound and lobed a long outlet in front of Langhorne. The sophomore center slammed a dunk through the nets pushing the Porters ahead one more time.
Dan Many hit one of two foul shots, but the fired up Langhorne nailed a banker from the foul line giving Greenport a three-point edge. The SK faithful had some anxious moments on the final play of the half. With SK spreading the court looking for the final shot, Herrington drove the lane, was undercut, and landed hard. After a long delay, Herrington left the game and received medical attention at the end of the bench as Eric Burns hit one of the two shots, and the half ended with Greenport on top, 25-22.
Herrington’s teammates gave him time to recover as they exploded to score 10 straight points after intermission to take control of the game. Palmatier hit Metzko, who canned a one-dribble jumper to tie the score as the second half got underway. A long Burns three-point goal from the baseline gave SK a 28-25 lead, an advantage they would never surrender. A two-pass series starting with Palmatier on the right wing, routed to Many at the high post and finishing with a Hotaling inside score, extended the margin. Burns penetrated the lane bouncing a pass to Metzko on the right wing, and the junior sharpshooter downed a 12-footer ending the Rams’ run with SK out in front, 32-25.
Creighton was working hard for Greenport and looked tired. The senior went to the line for four-straight foul shots but could only find the nets once. Metzko drove the lane for an SK score giving the Rams their biggest lead at 34-26. But, Creighton battled on. The powerful forward used an inside pass, splitting a double team at the blocks for a banking score. Moments later, Creighton was magic in transition off the fast break, then drove the lane, missed a shot but tipped it in for a basket. The tip-in had the large crowd buzzing and narrowed the SK lead to 34-32
The Rams proved to be resilient, Herrington drove hard and dished a pass across the lane to find Metzko for a banker. Burns converted a lay-up at the front of a fast break giving the Rams a 38-32 lead with eight minutes to play.
Charlie Darling used a steal to find Many and the senior drove the lane and missed, but Palmatier followed for another rebound score. After Creighton nailed a baseline jumper, Many turned in a defensive gem that very well may have saved the game for SK. The rugged senior stood his ground under the hoop after Creighton had stolen the ball, with Many drawing a charge nullifying the amazing forward’s basket.
Herrington made the defensive stop even more devastating when he fielded an inside pass at the block on SK’s next possession, spun to the middle and missed, but tipped in his own shot for yet another rebound score
Langhorne picked a pocket and hit Creighton for a driving score giving the Porters some hope. The strong-willed senior downed a pull-up jumper with 2:30 to play, and the Porters were back within four, 42-38. A gigantic moment occurred with 2:09 to play when Langhorne stole a pass and drove the hoop trying to bring Greenport even closer. Langhorne missed the shot, rebounded, but missed the put back from close range slowing the Porters’ forward progress.
Herrington hit a 16-footer from the left wing to get SK going again. Two Herrington foul shots with 50 seconds left stretched the margin to 46-38 and the arena buzzed with an electric SK glow. But, Creighton made it interesting burying another three-point goal. Langhorne hit one of two foul shots drawing the Porters within four, but that’s as close as they would get, with SK holding on for a 47-43 win.
Herrington, Burns and Metzko all hit double figures in the title game, with Herrington nailing 15, Metzko 12, and Burns 10. All three received tournament recognition. Metzko won the Sportsmanship award for the final game (Dan Many won the honor on Friday). Herrington was on the All-State Tournament Team and Burns was named the Tournament MVP.
It was offensive rebounding and amazing defensive pursuit that made the difference in SK’s semi-final win over Chateaugay Friday. Herrington started the offensive assault off the glass when he gave SK a 32-31 lead just before the third period horn, tipping in a Charlie Darling shot that rolled off the rim. Herrington’s tip-in was the first of four straight put-back scores. The Rams had five offensive rebound scores down the stretch to earn their trip to the title contest.
You won’t find his name among the statistical leaders this weekend, but South Kortright senior Josh Palmatier had a lot to do with his team’s ascendancy to the top of the state’s basketball elite. During first half action, Palmatier’s presence was felt everywhere, especially against Chateaugay. SK was wound tight as a drum in the early going on Friday scoring only six points and turning the ball over seven times during the opening quarter.
Palmatier did all the little things. With SK having trouble holding on to the ball and baskets, even shots, coming few and far between, Palmatier was a defensive stopper, urging his teammates to defend, the senior cleaned up the backboards on the defensive end of the court. The quiet senior engineered a handful of steals of his own and was a stabilizing force during Friday’s rocky beginning, keeping South Kortright close long enough for the Rams to shake their nerves and get their game in gear.
For photos from South Kortright's semifinal victory, visit the image gallery.