GLENS FALLS — Lawrence Woodmere Academy had two signed and sealed Division I players. Cardinal O’Hara had one player with a couple of Division II offers. But even more than that, it had togetherness that Woodmere couldn’t overcome.
O’Hara overcame a nine-point deficit midway through the third quarter to top Woodmere in what felt like an upset, 48-46, in a Class B boys Federation Tournament of Champions semifinal on Saturday.
O’Hara (26-1) will face Glens Falls in the 4 p.m. final Sunday.
Between 6-foot-10 Louisville-bound Aidan Igiehon and smooth guard Tyler St. Furcy, heading to Marist, as well as 6-7 Malik Speckman, Woodmere presented a stiff challenge. And while the Hawks had a number of shots altered, they never shied away and gave it right back on the defensive end.
“Lot of fight in us and guys stepped up off the bench,” O’Hara coach Tony Pulvirenti said. “Maybe it didn’t show up in the box score, but defense doesn’t show up in the box score.”
Correction, coach. It did this time. Woodmere shot 16 of 49 from the field. Igiehon was held to 1 of 3 shooting from the field, five points, five rebounds and two blocks before fouling out with 12.2 seconds left.
The player most responsible for Igiehon’s cold day was 6-5 O’Hara senior forward Justin Hemphill. Armed with a pair of Division II offers and some Division I interest, he and Igiehon both battled foul trouble throughout the second half, but Hemphill didn’t let it affect his offensive game. He finished with 12 points, 12 rebounds, three assists and two blocks.
“After this season, it’s not my first time in that situation, so I knew I had to be smart and do what I could while not being as aggressive as I might usually,” Hemphill said. “I relied on my teammates and they picked me up and we all helped each other.”
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Igiehon felt he needed to be on the floor more, but Woodmere coach Jeff Weiss didn’t want to lose his big man any sooner.
“I wasn’t as dominant as I usually was,” Igiehon said. “I wasn’t on the floor, I think that was the main issue. It was tough and the refs were calling it tight. I’m bigger and stronger than anybody, so if I go out there and bump somebody, it looks bad.”
St. Furcy, Woodmere’s all-tournament team selection, certainly did his part. He finished with a game-high 18 points and grabbed eight boards. In fact, it was his driving baskets in mid-third quarter that made O’Hara switch to zone. Once it did that, both St. Furcy and Igiehon were neutralized.
“Once we went to the zone, it pretty much took away his drive,” Pulvirenti said of St. Furcy. “Their big guy, he didn’t really want to shoot it when he came back in. Maybe the zone messed with him a little bit.”
When asked if the Hawks would be ready for an atmosphere in which Glens Falls was the opponent, Pulvirenti gave a gut laugh.
“I don’t know if any game could get us ready for a packed-in crowd and Joe Girard’s hometown,” he said. “At this point, 27 games in, we’re ready for anything. We’ve just got to stick together.”
Pulvirenti estimated the largest crowd his team has played in front of this season may have reached 2,000. Also, the idea of facing Glens Falls’ Joseph Girard III isn’t pleasant, but isn’t unexpected.
“Once the ball’s in his hands, it’s too late,” Pulvirenti said. “That’s what I see. Once he has the ball, he can hit it from almost midcourt. If you run two guys at him, he’s crafty with the basketball and passes well.”