POTSDAM — Every time Joseph Girard III steps on a basketball court wearing the Glens Falls red, white and black, he carries a burden.
Label such weight whatever you’d like. Whether it’s a burden to score, lead, make plays or simply win, his teammates, coaches, and a community count on him to get the job done, over and over again.
That specific formula got Glens Falls to Potsdam State on Saturday, playing in the Class B regional final against a one-loss Ogdensburg Free Academy team that feared none of the hype.
Sticking to a man-to-man defense, that JG3 scoring concoction wasn’t working on the Blue Devils right away.
In the opening 10 minutes, Girard III started a cold two-of-10 shooting, missing layups, 3-pointers and even turning it over four times.
Yet as nothing dropped for the future Syracuse guard, Glens Falls held a two-point lead as teammates Trent Girard, David Barclay, and Nick Danahy forced turnovers, snatched rebounds and got buckets.
When Joseph Girard III needed some saving, his Indian teammates played hero, picking up JG3 when he needed it, while biding him time for an inevitable Mr. 4,000 self-igniting run.
After scoring five points in the first quarter, Girard III finished with 46 points, five rebounds, nine 3-pointers and six assists on 11 of 23 shooting and Glens Falls beat the Blue Devils 84-76, advancing to the state semifinals.
The Indians (27-1) will play Olean at 9:30 a.m. on Friday in Binghamton.
“We saw that he was off,” Trent Girard said of his cousin Joseph. “But when he is off, we know it is not lasting that long. So if we can just put it on ourselves to keep us in the game or even get a little lead, we know that once he gets back, we will really pick up from there.”
“Joe is Joe and he is going to make his shots eventually,” Barclay added. “But we have to be there for him and make shots if that does happen.”
Once JG3 snapped back to reality, the Blue Devils found out that when a Girard III run happens, it happens quickly.
With four minutes left in the half, Glens Falls was down four. Then a Barclay steal sparked a 14-2 run, capped by back-to-back JG3 triples. Before the Blue Devils could even find confidence in their start, Glens Falls had an 11-point halftime advantage that they never game back.
“At the end of the first quarter, it’s 15-14 but I’m thinking (Joseph) hasn’t even gotten shooting yet,” coach Rob Girard said. Then when he gets going, no one can cover him.
“I thought our exterior guys did a great job finding shooters,” he added. “Their Jackson kid is a tough player, but I thought Nick (Danahy) did a good job on him, blocking him a few times. “
Though Ogdensburg (23-2) center Jackson Jones finished with 37 points, 22 came in the second half, when the Blue Devils entered a second-half desperation mode.
Jones chucked up triples, making only two, while Ogdensburg started sending Glens Falls to the free-throw line in the fourth.
Assuming Blue Devil coach Mark Henry did his homework, OFA began fouling Trent Girard, a below-50 percent free-throw shooter, in hopes of cutting into the Indians double-digit lead.
As the fourth quarter melted away, Trent made seven of eight free throws before the Blue Devils decided to foul someone else.
Their next target was Barclay. But he sunk a cool two free throws with two minutes to play, keeping OFA at a three-possession length.
The slow-bleed continued as the Blue Devils, only down six, fouled Girard III, who sealed it, making four-straight freebies.
“I’ve been joking around with Trent about his free throw percentage and getting on him at practice about it,” Girard III said. “Though it is jokes, at the same time I let him know he needs to get that going, and he did that today. Which is a credit to him for working hard, keeping his head on straight and going to the line because he is a good shooter.”
Now with Binghamton in its sights and program history on mind, Glens Falls is two wins away from a state basketball championship.
Saturday proved this team can hold its own for stretches without JG3 magic. Combine that with the Indians’ defensive fight and quick-scoring punch and Glens Falls is peaking just in time.
“Coach has been saying all week that this isn’t just for us, but for everyone that played before us,” Barclay said of reaching the state semifinals. “To get there with these guys, especially with what we did in football, we are just trying to do it again.”
“I remember being 5 or 6 years old, going to the Civic Center to watch Jimmer play and all that,” Trent Girard said. “I don’t think Glens Falls has done this since like 2007, so to be a part of such a small quantity of teams feels amazing.”