SARATOGA SPRINGS — In the days leading up to its regional semifinal game on Thursday, Ticonderoga players and coaches said they knew the Sentinels had what it took to defeat an undefeated Lake George team.
With eight seconds to play, Ticonderoga had the ball and the Warriors on the ropes.
Sentinels forward Colton Huestis caught a pass on the left wing, took a dribble and fired up the potential go-head triple.
Having already hit four 3-pointers, the right player had the ball at the right time for Ticonderoga.
Huestis’ shot hit the front of the rim and Warriors’ players began to celebrate their 46-44 victory as Sentinels players dropped to the Saratoga Springs High School floor in disappointment.
“I was thinking ‘oh god, that is going to go in,’” Lake George forward Mason Flatley said of Huestis’ final shot. “And I saw it clack off iron, I just got really happy.”
Lake George moves on to face St. Lawrence Central in the regional final on Saturday at SUNY Canton (2:45 p.m.). The winner of that games plays in the state final four in Binghamton.
The Warriors led the entire game until Ticonderoga guard Ethan Thompson hit a 3-pointer that put the Sentinels up 27-26 in the third quarter.
The teams exchanged the lead three times in the final eight minutes. Tied 38-all after a Huestis 3-pointer, Warriors forward Mason Flatley buried a trey with 4:18 to play.
The Warriors forced two straight Ticonderoga turnovers and the Sentinels trailed by seven after a backdoor pass from Flatley resulted in a Caleb Scrime layup.
Following a Sentinels’ timeout, Ticonderoga senior Evan Graney hit a triple. Scrime missed his first bonus free throw and Huestis struck with his fourth trey of the game, pulling the Sentinels within one point with 23 seconds remaining.
Despite only making one free throw down the stretch, Lake George tightened its defense when it mattered most and escaped with a victory.
“We played one of our better games defensively,” Warriors coach Dave Jones said. “I thought we did a great job containing their scorers. We held them to 12 points in the first half. They made some shots in the second half but not without us having a hand in their face.”
Early in the fourth quarter, it looked as if Lake George had met its match. The Warriors 3-pointers were not dropping and Ticonderoga had just hit its third straight triple.
Desperate for a make, Lake George (25-0) started feeding 6-foot-7 center Chris Becker the ball down low. Exploiting the Sentinels’ lack of size, Becker scored seven Warriors’ points in a row, and finished with a game-high 16 points.
“That is a lot,” Flatley said of Becker’s seven consecutive points. “He gave us momentum when we most needed it and we got the dub because of that.”
Flatley scored 15 points and Scrime joined Becker and Flatley in double figures with 10.
Ticonderoga (18-5) seniors Scott Ryan and Graney scored 11 and 14 points, respectively.
In the same regional semifinal game last year, these two teams met and Lake George won by three points. In Thursday’s game the Sentinels came as close as they could to handing the Warriors their first loss of the season.
“It stings and hurts to come that close and not get a bounce at the end,” Ticonderoga coach Joe Defayette said. “They will be proud of themselves and I told them that I am proud of them.”