GLENS FALLS, N.Y. (NEWS10) — The 17-point deficit the Troy boys basketball team faced in the first half of its’ Sec. II, Class A championship game with Amsterdam wasn’t the first time this postseason the Flying Horses were counted out.
John Killian’s bunch was overlooked as the No. 3 seed in the Class A playoff tournament, especially after amassing just a 10-10 record in the regular season.
But the Flying Horses took care of Gloversville in the quarterfinals, knocked off Peyton Smith and second-seeded Hudson Falls in the semis and even when faced with a double-digit deficit against a previously 21-1 Amsterdam squad, managed to prove the doubters wrong again and claim a section title after a thrilling, 72-68, double-overtime win over the top-seeded Rams.
The Class A final was game two of four championship games held out at Cool Insuring Arena Saturday night, and there’s no denying it was the most electric of the evening.
Amsterdam started the game off doing what its’ done best all season long, and that’s scoring in bunches. The Rams hung 22 points in the first quarter, jumping out to a nine-point lead. And they kept their foot on the gas to start the second frame, outscoring Troy 16-8 through the first three-and-a-half minutes to claim a 38-21 advantage.
But the Flying Horses did not come all that way just to get blown out in the championship game. They countered with a 9-0 run that was capped by a fast-break lay-up from eighth-grade guard Stetson Merritt. By quarter’s end, the deficit had been reduced to single digits, and Troy trailed 39-30 at the halftime break.
Amsterdam maintained its’ edge out of the locker room, even extending the lead to ten points after outscoring Troy 12-11 in the third quarter.
Then, the Flying Horses made their final push in the fourth. Basket-by-basket, they chipped away until the lead was down to three points, and with just over one minute remaining in regulation, Merritt hoisted a deep three-pointer just in front of the Troy bench; he and the rest of the team watched as the ball sailed through the net, tying the game at 56.
And they weren’t done there. After forcing a Vellon turnover on the defensive end, Troy came back down the floor with a chance to take the lead, and junior guard Terrance Clark delivered a floater in the lane to put the Flying Horses ahead 58-56.
Back at the other end, Vellon darted right into the paint to try and tie the game back up, but left his runner short, and Troy had an opportunity to salt the game away at the free-throw line.
Amsterdam had some fouls to give, though, and on a fourth-straight inbound play, Merritt committed an over-and-back violation, giving the Rams one final possession.
This time they got the ball to star senior guard Ceasar Thompson on a cut to the rim; Thompson converted in the paint over Merritt, sending the game into overtime at 58-58.
The score remained tied at the end of the first overtime period – 64-64 – so it’d take a full 40 minutes to decide a winner.
With the game still tied at 68, Clark knocked down a pair of free throws to give Troy a two-point edge with 59.5 seconds remaining.
After coming up with a defensive stop, senior Steve Foust added one more from the charity stripe. Amsterdam elected to go for the tie with its’ final possession, but senior JaShean Vann’s three-point try came up short, and Troy held out for the 72-68 victory, completing a miraculous comeback to claim a sectional title.
Coach Killian believes the postseason success his team garnered stems from tremendous comradery amongst every member of the program.
“One thing about our program – kids don’t care how much you know about basketball until they know how much you care about them,” said Killian. “And this is all about love and respect with the players, with each other and the coaches. I’ve said this all year – we’re battle-tested. We were 10-10, but we played what I think (was) the toughest schedule in Sec. II. They’re resilient; they’ve been resilient all year. We’ve had a lot of roster adjustments, and they just came together. It’s a remarkable group of young men.”
Merritt took home tournament MVP – a remarkable feat for an eighth grader. He finished the game with 23 points. Joining him on the all-tournament team, and following right behind in the scorebook was Clark, who netted 22.
Amsterdam had five players score in double figures. The top two, Thompson and Vellon, who notched 17 and 14 points, respectively, both landed on the all-tournament team as well.
Troy now advances to Wednesday’s sub-regional round at Liverpool High School, and will await the Sec. III champion.
Amsterdam’s remarkable season comes to an end; the Rams finish as the runner-up in Class A with an overall record of 21-2.