SOUTH GLENS FALLS – During the week of preparation, Clark Academy coach Anthony Gaines tried whatever he could to channel his players’ excitement. They turned to yoga and meditation, but the jitters were still evident when the Knights finally took the floor Friday.
Even so, Clark rallied back into position and even held a brief lead before halftime of its Class D state semifinal against unbeaten Oriskany. What finally felled the Knights was a brief loss of focus, and it spelled doom in their 59-40 loss to the Section 3 champ at the Glens Falls Civic Center.
Clark (15-9) ended the second quarter by surrendering a 9-0 run in just 45 seconds, including a seven-point Oriskany burst in the final 15. The Knights — in their first state final four appearance ever — watched a 19-17 lead spin into a 26-19 halftime deficit.
“I always talk to my guys about the mental focus. In that one stretch, they lost focus,” Gaines said. “Whatever was going on, they just lost that focus and we weren’t ever able to recover from that. I think we tried in the third, but those nine points in the short period of time really took a toll on them.”
Clark had faced a similar moment of crisis early. It opened the game cold and trailed 12-3 after one quarter.
That first deficit proved plenty surmountable. The Knights slowly recovered and actually regained their first (and only) lead since 2-0. Jaquay Wilkes’ 3-pointer gave them the 19-17 edge with 1:33 left in the half, but they still hadn’t found a rhythm. After Oriskany’s quick flurry, that fact became even more evident.
“I was worried about their nerves and their jitters, and just being in an arena like this,” Gaines said. “They had never been into this type of venue before. The County Center is one thing, but Glens Falls is another whole different level. I saw the nerves right away. We were able to work it out eventually in the second quarter, but we never got into a rhythm offensively. Defensively we could not see where we had to go and locate the guys defensively we had to locate.”
That included Anthony Warcup, who hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to complete his team’s 9-0 run. The Warcup 3 followed a turnover by Wilkes and Clark star Andre Carthorn, who was assessed a violation while inbounding with about 10 seconds left in the second quarter.
“We just fell apart,” Carthorn said. “We actually stopped applying our game plan. We weren’t playing for one another. We were playing for ourselves.”
Clark finished the game shooting just 29 percent and was ourebounded 49-37, including Oriskany’s 22 offensive rebounds. Seniors Shamis Lasher (20 points, 13 rebounds) and Ryan Schmadel (13 and 10) were integral in the Redskins’ rebounding effort.
Carthorn, his team’s leading scorer at 23.0 ppg, was held to nine points and five rebounds on 4-of-20 shooting before fouling out. Fellow seniors Taiquam Johnson (four points) and Antonio Lowden (seven) were also held well below their scoring averages.
“That was our game plan,” said Oriskany coach Chris Mahoney, whose team (26-0) will play Moriah on Saturday for the state title. “I didn’t think they could shoot as well from the outside, so we wanted to make them take a 25-footer or a 20-footer and not get to the basket, which could hurt us defensively and we could get stupid fouls.”
Clark hopes it has built the program into a position where it can return here again, but that gave the players little solace on Friday.
“It’s a bittersweet feeling,” said Carthorn, one of four senior starters. “It feels good (to be here), but to lose is obviously not a good feeling.”