GLENS FALLS — Aquinas senior shooting guard Earnest Edwards sat in a chair ill, during one of the team’s final practices before the Class AA state semifinals.
Then came game time Saturday. When it was Edwards’ turn to stand up against defending state champion Shenendehowa, so to speak, he was ready.
Aquinas rallied to force overtime and then defeated Shenendehowa of Section II, 55-51, inside the Glens Falls Civic Center to reach the final Sunday against Hudson Valley-based Middletown of Section IX.
Edwards finished with 21 points, nine in the fourth quarter and seven in overtime. Aquinas erased a five-point deficit during the final 38.4 seconds of the fourth quarter.
“I mean (Edwards), just lives for the spotlight, he’s an unbelievable athlete,” Notre Dame-bound football player and Aquinas senior forward Jamir Jones said. “He actually has the flu right now, which is crazy. He didn’t even practice yesterday.
“We didn’t expect him to do much this game, but he stepped up when we needed him the most. Clutch player. That’s all I can say.”
It seemed as if Shenendehowa (24-1), led by the state’s Mr. Basketball Kevin Huerter, would be the team to line up for the 3:15 p.m. tip-off of Sunday’s final.
The Plainsmen led 45-40 with a player at the free-throw line, set to be awarded a second shot, if he made the first. A miss cleared the way for Aquinas junior forward Jason Hawkes to hit a 3-pointer with 17.4 seconds remaining, as he leaned forward due to contact made by a defender.
“In my mind, I was saying ‘Get a good shot, get a good shot, an open three, we’re down by five,’ ” Hawkes said. “So I came off the screen, and he played me a little off. I went up and I made it.
“I don’t know how I did, but I made it. I was very hyped.”
Aquinas then fouled and took advantage of another miss to even the score at 45 on a drive by Edwards, started by an outlet pass by Hawkes.
“No one has more heart than these kids in the (Aquinas) locker room right now,” Hawkes said. “No one has more heart, I don’t believe anyone does.”
The Plainsmen inbounded the ball to Luke Hicks after Edwards’ score-tying layup, and the Shenendehowa guard made his way up court. Hicks never got the shot off and felt, along with teammates, a foul should have been called against Aquinas.
The Section V champions never trailed in overtime. David Vito, a senior guard at Aquinas, finished with 11 points, including two free-throws with 2.6 seconds remaining in the overtime period. Hawkes had nine points and nine rebounds, to help offset 30 points by Huerter, who has committed to play at the University of Maryland.
Huerter looked as if he played most, if not all of his basketball games in this hockey arena, his stroke looked so good. The 6-foot-6 senior guard was 7 of 10 from 3-point range, including a shot that swished that gave Shenendehowa its 45-40 lead late in the fourth quarter.
It was Edwards who broke the tie at the start of overtime, when he stopped and put the right touch on a 3-pointer. Edwards made a reverse layup on the next Aquinas possession, to give his team a 50-45 lead. The lead was five after Edwards made a short floater.
“Coming into the game I didn’t feel too good,” Edwards said. “In the fourth quarter, I just gave it my all. Coach G (Michael Grosodonia) and all of the coaches on the sidelines kept talking to me, ‘Just give me your all.’
“That’s what I did.”
The Plainsmen did cut the Aquinas lead to two points, 53-51, with 10.8 seconds remaining in overtime and Edwards missed the front end of a 1-and-1.
Shenendehowa had another chance, but Huerter slipped and lost the ball, and the Plainsmen fouled Vito with 2.6 seconds remaining in the overtime period.
Aquinas 55, Shenendehowa 51 (OT)
Aquinas 10 7 11 17 10 – 55
Shenendehowa 10 13 9 13 6 – 51
AQUINAS: Earnest Edwards 21, Jason Hawkes 9, David Vito 11, Jamir Jones 6, Jalen Pickett 8, Billy Gillan 0, Graycen Carter 0.
SHENENDEHOWA: Kevin Huerter 30, Mike Collins 0, Luke Hicks 6, Mike Pizziketti 9, Petar Bebic 5, Evan Paddock 0, Michael Gillooley 1, Chris Hulbert 0.
3-Point Goals: Edwards 3, Hawkes, Vito 2, Pickett; Huerter 7, Hicks 2, Bebic.