BY DEAN RUSSIN
UTICA _ South Kortright had two big problems Saturday at Thomas Proctor High.
And the Rams had no answer for either one.
Six-foot-8 sophomore center Matt Welch and 6-5 junior forward Fred Russ combined for 28 points and 29 rebounds to lead New York Mills to a 65-38 drubbing of SK in a Class D boys basketball state quarterfinal that drew a standing-room-only crowd.
"It was hard pushing them around," said 6-3 SK center Charlie Darling, by far the Rams' tallest player. "They're big. Both of those guys are big. They're the biggest guys we've seen all year."
Although the defending Class D state champions held the Marauders' bulky giants to a combined 10 points over the first two quarters, they trailed by 13 at halftime. That's because this New York Mills team is much more than a two-man gang.
"This year, we put five guys on the court who could do it all," said Russ, whose team fell, 56-45, to SK (20-2) in this round a year ago at Hartwick College. "Last year, they focused a lot on me. But this time, they couldn't. I don't think they could guard all the spots on the court we were getting to."
Mills senior guard Edgardo Colon opened the scoring with a three-pointer from the right wing and, after Jon Denario quickly countered with a layup, Matthew Dziekan gave the Marauders (23-0) a 6-2 lead with a three from the top of the key.
Senior swingman Rashawn Herrington pulled SK to 6-5 with two baseline drives, the first setting up a 1-for-2 effort at the free throw line and the second resulting in a reverse layup. Welch then hit the first of two free throws after drawing a foul in the paint on Darling, who followed up with a baseline runner off a sharp pass from Herrington.
Darling's basket made it 7-all with 3 minutes, 10 seconds left in the first quarter. When the period ended, though, Mills held a 17-7 lead.
"The thing with our guys is they hit the jumpers and then (defenders) have to come help with that and we've got Fred and me underneath," said Welch, who finished with 11 points and a game-high 15 rebounds. "They can't stop us underneath there."
Six seconds after tying the score, Darling got his second foul trying to defend an inside dump to Welch, who gave Mills the lead for good by making the first of two free throws.
Russ and Welch then hit back-to-back shots in the paint, Dziekan sank a three from the left wing and senior forward Jeremy Miller banked in a long two-pointer from the left side that beat the first-quarter buzzer. Russ then scored the first points of the second period while knocking down Tanner Metzko in the paint, and senior guard Edward Schulze converted a transition layup after Herrington lost the ball on a penetration attempt.
It was all part of a 14-0 run that gave Mills a 21-7 lead 54 seconds into the second quarter.
"In the first half, their guards hit some with their outside shooting, so it's like, what do you stop?" said 27th-year SK coach Bob VanValkenburgh, whose program went 26-0 and won its first state title last season. "Offensively "¦ even when we did get good penetration, we shot off-balance because we're not used to going up against that size. So they forced us into a lot of off-balance shots. They're pretty tough. You don't see size like that in Class D."
Mills took a 28-15 lead into halftime, but SK started the third quarter with a 6-2 spurt that cut its deficit to nine. Seconds after Denario capped the run off a Herrington assist, though, Russ completed a three-point play on a power move that drew a foul on Metzko. The Marauders led by double digits the rest of the way.
"We did have a big height advantage," said Russ, a Richfield Springs transfer who had a team-high 17 points and 14 rebounds. "We just had to be aggressive and it worked out for us."
Mills also didn't seem to mind letting Herrington _ a state-tournament All-Star last season _ work for his game-high 18 points and team-best 12 rebounds. They let him dribble, they let him penetrate and they let him shoot, much like SK let Greenport standout Ryan Creighton do in its 47-43 state-championship victory last March.
"He's a good player, but we've seen a lot of good players," Mills coach Mike Adey said. "It's not like we never saw a kid like that. We saw about eight of them last week (in a 75-52 Section Three championship win over Syracuse Academy of Science).
"He's a really good player," Adey continued. "I'm not knocking him on that, but he's one kid. If he got a dunk, that's two points. I mean, big deal."
Herrington finished 6-for-24 from the floor, contributing to a 15-for-56 team effort. The Marauders, who got 15 points from Miller and 13 from Dziekan, shot 27-for-59 from the field.
"The shots weren't falling," said Herrington, who entered Saturday's quarterfinal at 19.3 points per game. "We played good defense throughout the whole game, but a couple of times we slipped up and made mistakes. We didn't give up, it just didn't come out our way. The shots weren't falling, but that happens sometimes."
The Marauders advanced to a state semifinal against Maple Grove this weekend at the Glens Falls Civic Center. And it's safe to say they're looking for a big finish.
"We've got Glens Falls next week," Welch said. "I don't know what the teams are going to look like in Glens Falls, but right now, no one has matched up size with us."
NY MILLS 65, SK 38
CLASS D STATE QUARTERFINAL
Saturday at Utica-Proctor
Number before team indicates section
4-SOUTH KORTRIGHT (20-2): Rashawn Herrington 6-24 6-9 18, Charlie Darling 3-10 2-2 8, Jon Denario 2-2 0-0 4, Tanner Metzko 2-13 0-0 4, Trevor Holdridge 1-1 0-0 2, Damon Gardner 1-2 0-0 2, Brandon Tuttle 0-2 0-0 0, Ladd Hanselman 0-2 0-0 0, Cody Burns 0-0 0-1 0, Clinton Lutz 0-0 0-0 0. TOTALS: 15-56 8-12 38.
3-NEW YORK MILLS (23-0): Fred Russ 7-15 3-4 17, Jeremy Miller 7-11 0-0 15, Matthew Dziekan 5-7 1-2 13, Matthew Welch 4-13 3-6 11, Edward Schulze 3-4 0-0 6, Edgardo Colon 1-8 0-0 3, Addison Wolanin 0-1 0-0 0, Shane Joswick 0-0 0-0 0, Frank Walczak 0-0 0-0 0, James Fellone 0-0 0-0 0, Stephen Revere 0-0 0-0 0, Justin Stevener 0-0 0-0 0, Jeffrey Albright 0-0 0-0 0. TOTALS: 27-59 7-12 65.
South Kortright7 8 17 6 _ 38
New York Mills17 11 21 16 _ 65
Three-point field goals: S 0-5 (Herrington 0-3, Metzko 0-2); N 4-8 (Dziekan 2-3, Miller 1-1, Colon 1-4).
Rebounds: S 31 (Herrington 12); N 37 (Welch 15, Russ 14).
Dean Russin can be reached at email@example.com or 607-432-1000, ext. 215.