GLENS FALLS, N.Y. (NEWS10) — After losing a game to Granville back on Jan. 24, the North Warren Central boys basketball team sat at just 9-4 on the year – a modest record, but not indicative of a team primed for a deep run into March. But the Cougars flipped a switch in the back half of the season, and produced arguably the greatest season in program history.
After securing its’ first-ever regional championship, North Warren’s run came to a halt in the semifinals of the Class D NYSPHSAA Boys Basketball Championships Saturday afternoon. The Cougars lost in heartbreaking fashion to Sec. IX’s Chapel Field Christian 47-46 on a game-winner with just over 10 seconds remaining.
North Warren came out strong in the first quarter. Chapel Field had no answer for sophomore forward Derrick Tyrell, who scored 10 of the Cougars’ first 11 points, and helped lead his team to a 17-9 advantage by quarter’s end.
But the Lions managed to erase that deficit in the second frame. Senior Noah Swart poured in a three-pointer from the right corner at the 3:10 mark, giving Chapel Field the edge at 19-18.
The Cougars countered, though, with a quick, 5-0 burst to close the quarter, capped by a fast-break lay-up from seventh grade guard Semaj Cuyler with just seconds remaining on the clock, and North Warren took a 23-19 edge into the locker room at halftime.
The third quarter belonged to Chapel Field, however. It outscored North Warren 14-8 to claim a two-point lead heading into the final stanza.
It was in that final stanza that the see-saw affair continued. The first four minutes of the quarter was all North Warren. It went on an 11-3 run that was punctuated by a breakaway lay-up from senior guard Sean Evans, giving the Cougars a 42-36 edge.
But Chapel Field once again battled back and trimmed the deficit to one point at 46-45. The Lions had the ball with just over 30 seconds on the clock, and a chance to take the lead. Senior forward Leam Powell maneuvered into the paint, and tossed up a scoop shot that rolled around the rim, and eventually dropped to give the Lions a one-point lead with just over seconds remaining.
North Warren had two chances to reclaim the lead. The first ended abruptly when Evans airmailed an in-bound pass to Tyrell. The Cougars were then forced to foul to extend the game. They caught a break when Chapel Field was called for a lane violation on Jonah McDuffie’s free-throw attempt. Cuyler had one final look from beyond the arc for the win, but his shot missed the mark, bringing North Warren’s season to a close with the 47-46 defeat.
Tyrell led the team with 14 points, and Evans joined him in double figures with 11.
After the game, North Warren head coach James Cuyler was asked what the cause of his team’s struggles down the stretch was after the Cougars had seemingly seized all the momentum with their 11-3 run to start the fourth quarter.
“Maybe they saw the finish line too early,” said James Cuyler. “Couple bad turnovers, couple missed opportunities. That’s what happens in championship games like this. You have to capitalize. And if you don’t, you leave room for the other team to capitalize.”
Despite Saturday’s disappointing result, that did not at all diminish the pride Cuyler had in his team for what they accomplished this season.”
“They had a hell of a season,” said James Cuyler. “They played hard; they have nothing to hold their heads about. Hopefully the juniors, the sophomores and seventh graders learn from these mistakes, and (will) be ready next year.”
North Warren concludes its’ season with a 19-6 overall record. The Cougars will lose their leading scorer, Evans, to graduation. He averaged 17.4 points per game this year. But they still return a wealth of talent, including Semaj Cuyler, who earned Tournament MVP in sectionals, Tyrell and sophomore guard Elijah Horge, who was a spark plug off the bench all season.