QUEENSBURY — Having hit a step-back 3-pointer to pull within three points on the previous possession, Whitehall’s Evan St. Claire nearly hit a second step-back trey, which would’ve tied the boys Adirondack League championship game against Lake George, with under 30 seconds to play.
Instead, St Claire’s shot rimmed out, but Railroaders senior Dawson Procella pulled down the offensive rebound and drove to the basket.
Lake George guard Alex Jones slid in front of Procella as he attempted a layup. Both players hit the ground hard and the referee’s whistle blew. To Whitehall’s disappointment, Procella was charged with the offensive foul and his fifth personal.
The Warriors gained possession, hit a few free throws and went on to win the league championship 78-71, completing an undefeated 20-0 regular season.
“(Alex) makes plays like that for us all the time,” Warriors coach Dave Jones said. “It was a situation where a player was coming down the lane and we had been talking all game about trying to step in and take some charges and it could not have been a better time for one.”
Whitehall coach Keith Redmond watched the pivotal play develop right in front of him and did not see it the same way as the officials.
“It was not a charge,” Redmond said. “It was a call that probably should’ve went our way and then we go to the free throw line to try and make it a one-point game. That call was huge, plus it took (Procella) out of the game.”
Charge or not, had St. Claire hit the game-tying 3-pointer then it would not have mattered. But St. Claire scored 14 of his 39 points in the fourth quarter. He was the reason the Railroaders clawed back from a 20-point second-half deficit, and one player can only do so much.
Lake George led by double figures nearly the entire game, but with four minutes to play, Danny St. Clair hit a layup that cut the Warriors lead to 19 points.
Whitehall dominated the next three minutes by creating points off of turnovers and, St. Claire nailing multiple 3-pointers.
What looked to be another comfortable Lake George victory quickly turned into the Warriors most adverse moment of their season.
Despite being outscored 25 to 15 in the fourth quarter, Lake George made the plays it had to, and hit its free throws in the game’s closing moments to escape with the win.
“We expected a game like this,” Jones said. “I think it is great when it comes right before sectionals.”
Mason Flatley led the Warriors with 26 points and seven rebounds. Caleb Scrime finished with 21 points while Alex Jones scored 12 and center Chris Becker added 13.
Though it fell short of the upset, Whitehall is peaking prior to the Section II playoffs.
“We know that we are ready,” Redmond said. “To know we had the heart and desire to fight back like we did just gives us more energy to practice this week and get ready. We are going to be a tough out for anybody.”
For Lake George, the perfect season is not something it is celebrating yet. Throughout this entire year, the Warriors, ranked No. 1 in the Class C state poll, have had larger aspirations then completing a perfect regular season.
“This is going to help us a lot because it was a quick game,” Alex Jones said. “That can only help us get ready for the pace of sectionals.”