Defensive pressure brings SK boys sectional titile

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By John Bernhardt
The biggest shot of Saturday’s Section IV, Class D boys’ basketball championship game at the Binghamton Arena never went in the basket.

Leading 16-14, with less than one minute gone in the second period, South Kortright senior center Brando Tuttle received a pass at the foul line and spotted teammate Sage Beemer sneaking behind the defense toward the basket. Tuttle threaded a pass to the power forward, but Beemer hurried his shot and missed the mark. Beemer rebounded his miss, took a second shot, and was fouled. The foul was the third called on Hunter-Tannersville’s gifted center Laszlo Hajnoczi. With 7:05 to play in the first half, Hajnoczi headed for the bench. SK would outscore H-T, 9-1, during the remainder of the period as the Wildcats’ center looked on from the sidelines.

Hajnoczi’s absence and an iron tight South Kortright defense was the difference as the Rams bested H-T, 46-35, and captured their third Section IV, Class D crown in the last four years.
The SK first-half surge actually began before Hajnoczi went to the bench. Trailing 13-8, Tuttle downed a turnaround jumper inside the foul line to get the Rams in gear. After an H-T foul shot, Anthony Salcido buried a three-point goal from the top of the key, then Cody Burns finished a low dribble offensive series with a layup and was fouled. The Burns foul shot gave SK a 16-14 lead at the quarter break.

Even after he returned in the second half, his foul issues and a collapsing SK zone defense seemed to unnerve Hajnoczi. The H-T center and his teammates were clearly out of sync.

Stretching back to their last field goal in the first quarter, H-T missed 26 consecutive shots from the floor. Trailing, 30-17, H-T finally ended the drought when Danny Legg turned an offensive rebound into a score. Legg’s basket started a nine-point H-T run that closed the third period with the Wildcats back in the game, down by only four, 30-26.

It was Beemer again who ignited the next SK spark. Tuttle found Beemer alone on the inside for the first basket of the fourth quarter. Beemer hit a baseline jumper then drew a foul, Hajnoczi’s fourth, hitting one of the two charity shots. SK led 35-26.

Hunter made a final charge by running off six points in a row to draw within three. With 2:17 left, the Wildcats had the ball and were looking to get closer when Hajnoczi was called for an offensive foul, his fifth.

SK’s Trevor Holdridge was on fire down the stretch scoring seven points as the Rams pulled away. Holdridge finished with a team-high 12 points. The Rams will face Section III champion, Sackett’s Harbor (22-0) Saturday at 2 p.m. at LeMoyne College in Syracuse.