GLENS FALLS — Coming off a high screen and roll, Whitehall’s Evan St. Claire had a lane to drive but decided to pull up for three. With under a minute to play in the Class D final of the Section II Boys Basketball Tournament, St. Claire’s trey dropped and pushed the Railroaders’ lead to 10.
Center Bryce Eddy roared at midcourt while he and St. Claire slapped hands. Every player on the Whitehall’s bench was on their feet, cheering. Only the fans and parents seated behind them were louder.
Though there was a minute remaining, St. Johnsville looked drained and the game felt over.
“I knew that one was going in,” St. Claire said. “As it was closing down we were getting more and more anxious. It was exciting.”
For the first time in 47 years, Whitehall is the final Class D team playing in Section II, thanks to a 71-60 victory over St. Johnsville on Saturday.
“It feels unbelievable,” St. Claire said. “To win one, no one ever thought we would but we did it.”
After the game, Whitehall’s locker room sounded like a team’s that just made history. Players’ celebratory cries echoed down Cool Insuring Arena’s halls. Railroaders coach Keith Redmond said players from Whitehall’s 1976 team were in attendance for Saturday’s game.
The ‘76 Railroaders were the last Whitehall team to play in a section championship. There is a chance St. Claire and company celebrated loud enough postgame for members of the 1976 team to hear them.
For a coach in his 22nd season as head of the Railroaders’ program, saying this section title has been a long time coming for Redmond and his staff is an understatement.
“There isn’t a better feeling and my wife is probably going to hate me for saying this,” Redmond said, “but there is no better feeling in the world than winning this championship today.”
The Railroaders next play Saturday in the regional final at Plattsburgh State against Moriah (1:45 p.m.).
For the third tournament game in a row, St. Claire was lights out. He scored a game-high 28 points, shot four of eight from deep and pulled down a team-high 13 rebounds.
Often facing a box-and-one defense, St. Claire wisely picked his spots to attack while teammate Dawson Procella exploited his one-on-one matchups throughout the game.
Procella finished with 19 points on an efficient seven of 13 shooting, grabbed four rebounds and tallied two assists.
Trailing 32-31 at half, St. Claire started the second half with a corner 3-pointer, giving Whitehall a lead it did not relinquish.
St. Johnsville did tie the game at 42 all with 2:12 to play in the third quarter, but as St. Claire did all game, he responded with a pull-up jumper and Whitehall outscored the Wolfpack by seven points in the final quarter to win.
“We are just excited, happy and fortunate that we won this championship,” Procella said. “It took 47 years to get back here and it feels amazing.”
Class D Final
2P 3P FT TP
Daniel St. Clair 4 1 6 17
Evan St. Clarie 4 4 8 28
Dawson Procella 3 4 1 19
Andrew Genier 1 0 1 3
Bryce Eddy 2 0 0 4
Totals 14 9 16 71
St. Johnsville (20-3)
2P 3P FT TP
Jack Brundage 3 0 2 8
Zach Mosher 0 1 1 4
Colton Cooper 0 1 0 3
Devyn Jones 1 3 1 12
Dustin Dolder 0 1 0 3
Elias Sanchez 5 0 3 13
Tyler Leon 6 1 2 17
Totals 15 7 9 60
Whitehall 23 8 18 22 — 71
St. J’ville 16 16 13 15 — 60