SARATOGA The wall of the Saratoga High School gym is inscribed with a huge scripted mural Home of the Blue Streaks in flaming italics.
A streaking OFA Blue Devil basketball team, aided by the presence of rousing student body support via a spectator bus, made themselves right at home on Tuesday night at the expense of Section 2 Champion Voorheesville in a Class B regional semifinal game of the New York State Tournament.
The number two state-ranked Devils (22-1) buried eight of 19 three-point attempts and shot 57.4 from the floor recording an 80-49 victory posted their 22nd straight win to end a 20-game win streak by the 21-2 seventh-ranked Blackbirds.
The victory completed the Devils cyclical return to the regional championship game against Section 7 Champion Plattsburgh High which will be played at SUNY Plattsburgh on Saturday at 1:45 p.m.
The winner advances to the NYS Final Four in Glens Falls on March 14-15 and possibly into a semifinal matchup with the states number one team Syracuse Westhill.
They were the home team, but when we came out on the floor at 5:30 p.m., we had 200 people cheering us on. Having so many friends here really fired us up, said OFAs Seth Pinkerton.
And then we started hitting our shots and just took off. They were a good team and number 15 (Noah Crawford) was really, really quick.
Colin Ross buried a pair of three-field goals as the Devils scored the first seven points of the game and netted five of their eight threes on the night in a 23-14 first quarter lead.
Voorheesville coach Dave Burch switched from a zone defense to a man-to-man but his hard-working team was never able to slow the free form passing scheme of the Devils who committed just six turnovers and attacked the basket from all angles with 21 assists on 31 baskets.
After the game in talking to the Albany Times Union, Burch offered the Devils a simple but ultimate compliment: They are basketball guys. It would have been crazy to pull this one out.
OFA Coach Mark Henry enjoyed success on a defensive adjustment to control one of the Blackbirds major weapons, the explosive dribble penetration by guard Noah Crawford.
I wasnt happy that we had to go to a 3-2 zone but the guys met the challenge. Noah Crawford was extremely quick and the zone worked well, said OFA Coach Mark Henry after his team committed just seven fouls and limited the Blackbirds to just one free throw attempt.
The Devils offense continued to function as well as any team ever produced in Section 10 led by Kinnon LaRose. The all-purpose junior wingman did not committ a turnover while operating in the low blocks and the perimter and scored at least five points in every quarter in collecting 30 points on 12-20 shooting, seven assists, six rebounds and four assists.
After burying two quick threes in the first quarter senior point guard Matt Piercey went 3-4 from three-point range scoring 18 points on 6-9 shooting with seven rebounds and four assists.
Ross finished with 16 points on 6-11 shooting and posted five rebounds and three assists. Seth Pinkerton tallied six points on 3-5 shooting and six and Jack Manke added six boards, three assists, and two points.
Logan Hotaling, a smooth but physical forward, finished with 19 points on 9-18 shooting with 10 rebounds for the Blackbirds. Noah Crawford added eight points, four rebounds and three assists while Isiah Meaux and Dylan Hensel tallied seven and six points.
Rounding out the scoring for OFA were DaKota Brady (two points), Conor Hannan (four points), and Jon Rogers (two points).
Colin Ross got us going with two threes and then the guys just took turns making big plays, said Henry.
It just another great team effort. Voorhesville was a very good team and Logan Hotaling is a fantastic player.
FINALS ROLES REVERSED
In last years regional final OFA was denied an upset win by Section 2 Champion Watervliet which went on to win the state championship.
On Saturday the Devils will take to the floor at SUNY Plattsburgh as the favorite over an unranked Plattsburgh squad which won the Section 7 title in a 66-56 victory over Ausable Valley. The Hornets anchored their sectional title win in a 25-6 first quarter lead but did need to answer a rally by the resilient Patriots who tied the game at 46-46.
Garrett Frady (3 3s, 7 rebounds) and Tauofik Maknami (7 rebounds) each hit key threes in the fourth quarter and carried a heavy offensive load for PHS with 30 and 24 points.
It was a perfect first quarter. It proved to be the difference in the game. We are led by our defense, said PHS Coach Chris Hartmann who has led Hornet teams to five Section 7 titles in nine years.