PLATTSBURGH — Moriah’s suffocating defense limited previously unbeaten Schroon Lake to a season-low in scoring Saturday afternoon, enabling the Vikings to claim the Section VII boys’ Class D basketball championship with a 49-44 triumph at the Plattsburgh State Field House.
“They played really good defense,” Schroon Lake coach Lee Silvernail said. “Their interior defense was very strong; they did a good job not giving our shooters good looks.”
Moriah coach Brian Cross started his team in a man-to-man defense, but had to make the switch to zone due to early foul trouble. Cross added his team was “getting killed” in the first half on the boards, so he tried to “make adjustments” to start off the second half.
Moriah took an 8-7 lead after one quarter and then stretched its lead to 23-16 by the break with the tempo picking up in the second. The Vikings broke through Schroon Lake’s defense as they found ways to get into the paint. Junior Tyler Pratt did an excellent job for Moriah, as he constantly slashed through the Wildcat defense to either lay the ball off to one of his teammates or go in for the basket.
“Coming out we were looking at setting up plays,” Pratt said. “But we analyzed what the defense gave us and realized we were able to penetrate through their defense.”
Pratt had an overall stellar game, finishing with a team-high 10 points and he led the Vikings aggressive defense with five steals.
Schroon Lake (20-1) trailed nearly the entire game, and saw its deficit balloon to 10 at the end of the third quarter. Heading into the fourth, the Wildcats went into their full court press , which allowed Schroon Lake to chip away at the lead.
“We were forcing turnovers, getting good looks and hitting open shots,” Silvernail said.
The Wildcats seemed to find their range late in the fourth after shooting poorly the majority of the game. They hit back-to-back 3-pointers to cut the lead to 39-31 with a little over five minutes left.
Jesse Shaughnessy dominated the last three minutes on the boards, as he was able to grab rebounds on both ends of the floor and set up his teammates. He finished with 15 points, 12 rebounds, three steals and three assists.
“Jesse played extremely hard the entire 32 minutes he was out there and made some key stops,” Silvernail said.
With 38.4 seconds left in the fourth, Shaughnessy was able to pull in a huge offensive rebound and kick it out to teammate Jeff Armstrong who, in turn, hit a three as he was getting fouled. Armstrong was able to make his free throw to complete the four-point play.
The Wildcats, forced to foul, sent the Vikings to the line on their next two possessions but Moriah made only 1-of-4 attempts, leaving Schroon Lake a sliver of hope.
Shaughnessy then came back at the other end and made another huge bucket to cut the lead 47-44 — the smallest margin since the opening minutes.
Shaughnessey continued his relentless play and stole the ball off the Wildcats’ full-court press. He then was fouled. But Schroon Lake’s free-throw woes continued as Shaughnessey could not connect on either from the line.
“You got to give them credit; they played their heart out the last three minutes,” Silvernail said. “But it’s usually the team that hits the free throws who will win the close games at the end.”
Derek Brassard ironically iced the game for Moriah with two free throws.
“I’m proud of my kids. They knew they had to play their best game to beat Schroon Lake, and I think we did it for the first 30 minutes,” Brian Cross said. “It got a little shaky at the end, but we stuck together and got through it.”
It was Moriah’s fourth Class D title this decade. The Vikings lost to Seton Catholic in the Class C final last year after beating Schroon Lake 53-45 in the 2010-11 Class D title game. The Vikings were making their ninth appearance in the sectional finals in 11 years.
For Schroon Lake, it was a third straight loss in the Class D final. Schroon Lake’s last championship came in 2006 when the Wildcats beat Moriah 53-38.
Moriah will take on Madrid-Waddington of Section X Tuesday at 7:45 p.m. at SUNY Potsdam in the regionals.
Moriah 49, Schroon Lake 44
Schroon Lake (44)
A. Shaughnessy 1-0-3, Stone 3-0-8, Rose 1-0-2, Armstrong 4-2-12, J. Shaughnessy 4-6-15, C. Maisonville 0-0-0. J. Maisonville 2-0-4, Lough 0-0-0. Totals 15-8-44.
Pratt 5-0-10, Calkins 2-2-6, Shpur 3-2-8, Brassard 2-1-6, Jaquish 3-3-9, Mero 2-3-8, Belzer 1-0-2 Totals 18-11-49.
Moriah 8 15 12 14 — 49
Schroon Lake 7 9 9 19 — 44
3-point goals: Moriah (2): Brassard, Mero. Schroon Lake (6): A. Shaughnessy, Stone 2, Armstrong 2, J. Shaughnessey.