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OFA heads to Final Four

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Coach Mark Henry will lead his OFA Basketball team into the New York State Class B Final Four on Friday with a diverse coaching staff spanning three generations.

And undoubtedly one of the most effective in the state according to Henry who is assisted by Jim Adams, Zach Dodge, T.J. Hannan, equipment manager John Hannan and junior varsity coaches Scott and Mike Sargent who became fulltime staff members after leading their team to the NAC Central Division title.

Coach Henry has called upon the energy, depth and experience of the staff as a major strength for the 22-1 Devils who will meet 23-0 Syracuse Westhill on Friday night at 8:30 p.m. at the Glens Falls Civic Center.

The winner of the game will face the winner of a 7 p.m. semi-final duel between 20-3 Olean of Section 6 and 19-5 Woodlands of Section 1 on Saturday night at 9 p.m. for the state title.

“We have such a great coaching staff because we work so well together and bounce things off each all of the time, ” says Henry who guided his first and OFA’s fifth Final Four appearance in his fourth year as the Devils’ varsity coach.

“We all have different roles in practice. Zach Dodge works a lot with the post players and Coach Adams and I work with the guards. Coach Adams is our motivator, he is really great at it.”

Henry previously coached the OFA Girls Varsity Basketball team making one appearance in the Class B quarter-finals. He also coached Girls Varsity Basketball at Heuvelton and led a Heuvelton Girls Softball Team to the NYS Class D Final Four.

Adams, the self-proclaimed old guy on the staff, traces his coaching roots back to OFA Modified Boys Basketball in early 1970s. He also officiated for many years and called several games where Coach Henry was a standout for Norwood-Norfolk.

He returned to coaching to lead the OFA Girls Varsity Basketball and Boys and Girls Cross Country teams. After retiring from OFA, Adams served as an Assistant Girls Basketball Coach at Heuvelton Central and helped Lynn Blevins lead a Lady Bulldog squad to the NYS Class D Final Four.

T.J. Hannan and Zach Dodge are both three-year assistant coaches who played on outstanding OFA teams.

Scott Sargent enjoyed a relatively short but very successful varsity career at Heuvelton highlighted by one trip to the regional finals. He stepped down to coach his sons in youth basketball.

Last season he took over the helm of the OFA JV’s succeeding his older brother Mike Sargent when he retired from teaching at the elementary level after a very successful career as JV boys basketball coach and varsity baseball coach who made one appearance in the NYS Class B Final Four. He also gained a great deal of Final Four appearance as JV basketball coach assisting Bill Merna in four trips Glens Falls and one appearance in the state championship game.

The second of two brother combinations on the staff Jon Hannan has served equipment manager in all five of OFA’s Final Four runs.

“Jon Hannan is a great member of the staff,” says Henry. “He runs the clock, takes care of practice gear and is just a great person to have around”.

A staff with such a wealth of knowledge works in perfect unison with a team of dedicated gym rats looking to absorp everything their coaches have to offer.

“Our coaches are all very easy to work with. They all do things a little differently so we have really learned a lot of from them,” said senior co-captain Colin Ross.

“In practice we get a lot of individual instruction and that has really helped us.”

That helped them reel off 21 straight wins after a 64-62 loss at Albany Academy in the second game of the season. The Devils started their streak one night later with a 59-57 win over Newark of Section 6.

“We are all on the same page all of the time and working with this group of players the past two years has been amazing. They just come in ready to go,” says Adams.

“Before the games all of the coaches all get a chance to speak. And they always let me, as the old guy, go last.”

FRIDAY’S MATCHUP

OFA’s meeting with Section 3 Champion Westhill is a classic No. 2 vs No. 1 duel but the two teams took opposing routes in the final leg of their Final Four journeys.

The Devils rolled past Section 2 Voorheesville 80-49 and Section 7’s Plattsburgh 92-49 while the Warriors made their second straight trip to the state semi-finals by shading Utica Notre Dame 63-60 in the Section 3 title game and then grinding out a 56-53 overtime win over Section 4’s Norwich in the regional final.

Leading the Warriors is guard Jordan Roland who averages 23 points a game and mixes explosive penetration moves with 58 three-pointers and 6’ 5” southpaw forward Tyler Reynolds who delivers most of 17 points per game, mostly from the outside. Point guard Jeff Lobello (7 points, 5 assists pg) gives the Warriors a poised point guard.

Roland scored 18 of his 24 points against Norwich in the fourth quarter and overtime as the Warriors rallied from a four-point deficit.

“Westhill is a very well coached team that plays mostly man-to-man defense and looks to take advantages of mismatches. We need to know where Jordan Roland is at all times,” said Henry.

“Like usual we need to play at a fast pace, take care of the ball and rebound.”

The priorities have been followed expertly all season by the Devils who have raced away from every conference, sectional and regional opponent averaging 82.9 points per game while shooting 53 per cent as a team.

Talk to NAC Central Divison MVP and 1000-point career scorer Kinnon LaRose about the Devils ability to translate their regular season success into the postseason and he speaks quietly but very effectively. Just like his well-versed game which features 70 per cent two-point shooting.

“I think we have gotten better every game because our defense has gotten better” says LaRose (23.6 pts, 8.4 reb, 4.8 as, 4 st pg) who is a 6’ 4” all-purpose junior forward. He leads the team along with fellow First Team Central Division all-stars in senior guards in Matt Piercey (14.6 pts, 6 as pg) and Colin Ross (13.8 pts, 2.6 as pg).

Piercey has buried 53 of 93 three-point attempts on the season while LaRose has gone 56-143 and Ross has gone 37 of 104.

Jack Manke, a 6’ 4” center who averages 6.3 points and 6.3 rebounds per game, earned second team all-star selection and 6’ 2” junior forward Seth Pinkerton (6.7 pts, 5 reb pg) rounds out the starting five.

The team’s top reserves as are senior guard Conor Hannan (4.7 ppg with 25 3s), junior guard Tristan Moore (2.3 pts, 2.6 reb pg), junior forward DaKota Brady (3.7 ppg) and 6.5” sophomore center Al Fisher (3.2 pts, 3.7 reb pg). The other reserves: Justin Ross (G), Mitchel Barber (C), Jon Rogers (G) and Ryan Adams (F) have all played effectively when called upon.

FINAL FOUR NOTES: OFA made previous Final Four apperances in 2004, 2006, 2007 and 2008 and fell to Malverne 44-42 in the 2007 title game... OFA’s game on Friday will be aired on ESPN 1400 radio of Ogdensburg and B99.3 FM of Potsdam. In other semi-final matchup 6’ 4” forward Will Bathrust and 6’ 7” Sam Eckstrong lead Olean against Woodlands whose tallest player 6’ 3” Jami Gamari leads the team in scoring and rebounding.

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