SYRACUSE — Trailing at halftime, second-seeded Cooperstown scored 51 second-half points to overwhelm third seed West Canada Valley and advance to the section finals for the fifth straight year with an 80-70 win in the Section III Class C boys basketball semifinals Saturday, Feb. 29, at Onondaga Community College’s SRC Arena.
Junior backup guard Chris Ubner scored all nine of his points during a pivotal 22-9 third quarter, making three 3-point baskets during a 12-3 run that closed out the quarter.
“Wasn’t that great? That’s my most rewarding part of coaching,” Cooperstown coach John Lambert said. “Seeing a player step up like that for the first time in a big spot is special.”
Ubner wasn’t the only Hawkeye with late-game heroics. Senior forward Kaishaun Jefferson scored 10 of his 15 points in the fourth quarter, including 6-for-10 from the foul line. Junior guard Spencer Lewis scored nine of his team-high 18 points in the fourth quarter, including going 6-for-6 from the foul line.
However, Lambert said it was defensive intensity that turned the game around, after the Indians took a 32-29 lead into halftime.
“We knew they liked to fast break, and we knew we had to get back in transition with them to stop them,” he said. “I told my guys at halftime, ‘if you look at the tape of the first half with me, you are going we see we are not getting back on defense.’
“We knew all along what we needed to do,” he continued. “I told them, ‘you just need to step up and do it.’”
Junior center John Kennedy had 16 points, 17 rebounds and four blocks, setting a school record for blocks in a season, in the process. Kennedy’s 82 blocks this season passes his brother, Owen Kennedy Jr., who had 79 blocks during the 2017-2018 season.
Kennedy, who is one of only three players back from last year’s state championship team — Lewis and senior guard Ryan Lansing are the other two — said he sees a lot of the same elements in this year’s team.
“I think we are pretty close to what it was last year,” he said. “We’re just a team that likes to play basketball together. We don’t have a lot of egos or anything. It is just a bunch of good guys, like last year.”
Lambert agreed, and said he is amazed with how little the team has lost, despite losing the Class C player of the year (his son, Jack Lambert) and three other starters from the state championship team.
“This team had to forge its own legacy, and I am proud of them for doing that,” he said. “Last year’s team was the best team we have ever had here, so we had a lot to live up to this year, and they have done that.”
However, Saturday, West Canada led until midway through the third quarter, when Lansing drove through the lane for a layup that gave the Hawkeyes a 39-38 lead with 4:15 left in the quarter. Lewis made a three-pointer from deep on the left side to make it 42-38, about 20 seconds later, but Jaeden Beam answered with a three-pointer on the other end to make it 42-41 with 3:28 left. Ubner then scored the final nine points of the quarter, to put Cooperstown up, 51-41, going into the fourth quarter.
A foul and a technical foul on Cooperstown’s Joe Senchyshyn allowed Beam to make four straight free throws and cut the lead to 51-45 just 15 seconds into the fourth quarter. WCV narrowed the lead to two points with baskets by Andrew Soron and Casey Dibble to make it 51-49 with 6:52 left, but Cooperstown answered with a 16-2 run that put the game away. The Hawkeyes made 12-of-16 free throws in the final quarter to preserve the win.
Beam had a game-high 21 points and Soron scored 20 for West Canada Valley (16-7).
Lansing scored 12 points to make it four players in double figures for Cooperstown, which also got eight points from Senchyshyn.
Cooperstown (18-5) will play top seed Weedsport (21-2) in the section finals at 2 p.m. Saturday, March 7, again in OCC’s SRC Arena in Syracuse. The Warriors beat fifth seeded Onondaga, 69-49, Saturday at SRC.
“We don’t know a lot about them, yet,” Lambert said, “but there are no undeserving teams at this point.”
Cooperstown 80, WCV 70
Section III Class C boys basketball semifinal
at Onondaga Community College
WCV ..... 13 19 9 29 - 70
Cooperstown ..... 17 12 22 29 - 80
3-WCV: Andrew Soron 7 6-10 20, Jaeden Beam 5 7-8 21, Nathaniel Rath 2 1-3 6, Casey Dibble 4 0-0 8, Caden Ludwig 2 0-0 4, Brayden Shepardson 0 0-0 0, Will Smith 4 3-3 11, Cameron Rath 0 0-0 0. Totals: 24 17-24 70.
2-Cooperstown: Ryan Lansing 5 2-2 12, Spencer Lewis 4 6-6 18, Kendall Haney 0 0-0 0, Joe Senchyshyn 4 0-1 8, John Kennedy 7 2-5 16, Kaishaun Jefferson 4 7-13 15, David Valmas 0 0-0 0, Chris Ubner 3 0-0 9, Sam Grigoli 1 0-0 2, Alex Hage 0 0-0 0. Totals: 28 17-28 80.
Three-point baskets: W 5 (Beam 4, Rath); C 7 (Lewis 4, Ubner 3).