Elmira Notre Dame played from behind nearly the entire game Saturday against Waterville. By the time the Crusaders closed within striking distance, the Indians pulled away to Glens Falls.
Zach Sawyer scored six points in the final 1 minute, 9 seconds after Notre Dame’s Nate Niles hit a 3-pointer to bring the Crusaders within three and Waterville held on for a 61-55 victory at Onondaga Community College in a New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class C quarterfinal.
“We just never were really in charge, never really in control,” Notre Dame coach Bill Hopkins said. “We played much better in the second half than we did in the first half. We just couldn’t get over the hump.”
Sawyer finished with 24 points and Hunter Williams scored 15 as the Section 3 champion Indians (21-2) advanced to a state semifinal against Hoosic Valley at 5 p.m. Friday at the Glens Falls Civic Center.
Hoosic Valley was a 67-47 quarterfinal winner over Plattsburgh Seton Catholic on Saturday.
The Crusaders finished with a 20-2 record and for the second time in three years had their season end against a Section 3 team in the quarterfinals. Two years ago it was Cooperstown that beat the Crusaders, 63-49, at Le Moyne College.
Tom Agan and Darius Garvin had 16 points each to lead Notre Dame, which came in ranked second in Class C by the New York State Sportswriters Association. Jonas McCaig had nine points and Niles scored eight.
“It’s tough because we all knew we had the potential to make it to states,” Agan said. “We just didn’t get it done. They outplayed us.”
Agan and six other seniors played their final game at Notre Dame.
“I think right now it stings,” Hopkins said. “The whole loss concept I don’t think entered our minds. I really felt the guys felt confident. Losing is so sudden. It happens very abruptly and it’s hard to cope with it.”
The Crusaders led 8-6 after a Garvin 3-pointer, but ninth-ranked Waterville responded with 10 straight points to take a 16-8 lead.
The Indians maintained control the rest of the half and led 29-24 at the break following a late 3-pointer from the Crusaders’ Parker May.
Hopkins knew Waterville was a dangerous rebounding team and the Indians lived up to that reputation in converting several second-chance opportunities.
“We did what we could do,” Hopkins said. “They hurt us on the glass. We knew that. We couldn’t get a rebound when we had to.”
Hopkins and Agan both gave credit to an active 2-3 zone from Waterville, which also made things tough in the paint with its size. Notre Dame stayed close with seven 3-pointers.
“Their zone was pretty active and their size was definitely tough for us,” Agan said. “But we were able to get some shots outside and some down low too. We moved the ball around. We just weren’t able to get it done.”
Waterville started the second half with an 8-2 run to go up 37-26. The lead was 44-34 before McCaig’s 3-pointer with two seconds left in the third quarter.
The Crusaders closed within 49-43 on a bucket by Agan before the Indians responded with four straight points. Notre Dame hurt itself with turnovers as it tried to fight back.
“In the second half we had three possessions where we had three straight turnovers and deflected passes,” Hopkins said.
Garvin scored four straight points to bring Notre Dame within 53-47 with 1:53 remaining. The 3-pointer from Niles made it 53-50 with 1:26 left.
Waterville missed its next shot and the ball ended up in the hands of the Crusaders’ Hunter Thomas, but a taller Indians player reached over and grabbed the ball. It was ruled a held ball, possession went to Waterville and Sawyer scored with 1:09 left. He added two free throws with 29 seconds remaining to increase the lead to 57-50.
“I thought Hunter got hit,” Hopkins said. “I guess that’s what you get when you go up to Section 3 and a Section 3 team is playing. Sometimes you don’t get calls going your way. The same thing happened to us two years ago.”