TROY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Three years ago, the North Warren Central boys basketball team was set to take on Schroon Lake in regionals of the Class D state tournament. Unfortunately, COVID-19 robbed the Cougars of their chance to reach the final four. Fast forward to Saturday night, and James Cuyler’s squad would have its’ opportunity at redemption, and the team seized it.
Backed by a 26-point effort from senior Sean Evans, North Warren is headed to the state semifinals for the first time in program history after knocking off Sec. VII’s Schroon Lake 64-59 in regionals.
The Cougars had to overcome a sizeable, first-quarter deficit, though. Schroon Lake was firing on all cylinders offensively to start, and jumped out to a 15-8 advantage after the opening frame.
But North Warren quickly responded, opening the second quarter on a 9-0 run that was capped by a put-back lay-up from junior forward Derrick Tyrell.
The two sides exchanged buckets throughout the remainder of the first half. Then, with under 30 seconds to play in the second quarter, and the Cougars trailing by one point, Evans converted an old-fashioned, three-point play to give his team a 30-28 lead at halftime.
Back-and-forth the two top-10 teams went in the third quarter until the game was all square at 47. With less than a minute remaining in the quarter, Evans managed to summon even more magic, one-upping his heroics at the end of the first half. He was fouled on a near-side corner three, knocked the shot down, and added the bonus at the charity stripe to complete a four-point play, not only reclaiming the Cougars the lead, but also garnering them tremendous momentum heading into the final stanza.
Schroon Lake, however, refused to go away quietly. Austin Hartwell poured in one of his game-high six three-pointers at the 5:21 mark of the fourth, putting the Wildcats back on top at 56-55.
But on North Warren’s very next possession, sophomore guard Elijah Horge, who Coach Cuyler said after the game didn’t start playing basketball until 2-3 years ago, drilled the biggest shot of his career, connecting on a wing three-pointer to give the Cougars a lead they would not relinquish.
With just over three minutes remaining, Horge dropped in a baseline floater, providing North Warren with a two-possession edge, and the Cougars hung on from there for the 64-59 victory.
Cuyler was grateful that his players had the opportunity to represent the 2020 team that lost its’ chance to fight for a regional championship.
“It was special to play this game,” said Cuyler. “These guys put the work in this summer, and it’s showin’ now. We’re gonna enjoy this one tonight, and get back to work on Monday.”
Evans’ 26 points matched a season-high. He was joined in double figures by seventh grade guard Semaj Cuyler, who had 13 points, and Horge, whose 11 points were a season-high.
North Warren will now meet up with Sec. IX’s Chapel Field Christian in the state semifinals Saturday at Cool Insuring Arena. Opening tip-off is slated for 12:30 p.m.