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GLENS FALLS — Head coach Kevin Hind and the Randolph Cardinals men’s basketball team had to wait 19 years between games at the Cool Insuring Arena during the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Championships.
Hind and the Cardinals were determined not to wait that long and it worked because they will be back today.
Randolph weathered adversity on Friday in their Class C state semifinal against Section IV Moravia and prevailed 50-43.
“I just don’t have words,” Hind said of her move to the national final. “Then with one of our best players dropping early, we roll and things look really good. We’re up against six guys, a kid (Cooper Freeman) from the jayvee team hadn’t played a college minute came in and played 13 minutes, handled the ball and didn’t return it. Roan Kelly came in defensively and didn’t miss a beat, but offensively we were limited.
Although the Cardinals have the best shooting trio Hind has had at any given time, they are a team that emphasizes defense. So when Randolph’s core defense Griffin Nelson went down with an injury with 2:15 left in the first quarter, the Cardinals were going to need not only the big three to step in, but the bench as well.
“It’s not good,” Hind said of Nelson’s injury. “He is the heart and soul of our defense and really our team. Losing it was huge and still being able to pull it off; there was a point in the game where I really thought we should have put it away and just got it out of sync, out of rhythm, in a bad mood. … we just had to improvise.
With Nelson down, Randolph was in control of the game and took a 17-13 lead after the first quarter. However, with substitutes entering the game earlier than usual, the tempo was disrupted offensively, leading to a quiet second quarter for the Cardinals who only managed to take a 23- 20 at halftime.
Feeling Moravia on his heels, Randolph needed his big three to step in in the second half and he got exactly what he needed in the third quarter.
After a quiet Far West Regional by his standards, Drew Hind played one of his best games of the year against Moravia. The sophomore guard attacked the basket all game for the Cardinals — scoring 8 of his 20 points in the third quarter — and finished three three-point plays.
“Basically in the second half I gave the ball to Drew and went wide,” coach Hind said of the attack. “He came down, finally. Not so much in the first half, but downhill in the second half he attacked the basket, finished, got people shooting and handled the ball for the most part (then) Carson Conley hit huge hit after huge hit throughout the tournament.”
Beyond the arc, Conley was deadly for Randolph again, hitting four treys in key situations that lifted the Cardinals offense. Conley finished with a team-high 20 points to tie Hind.
Friday’s match saw Hind and Conley come up on the attack while Jaiden Huntington didn’t have his best performance. Although his numbers weren’t in their usual place on the scoreboard, Huntington picked his spot in the fourth quarter to make his two shots that helped put the game beyond Moravia’s reach.
“All three are really good,” Hind said. “Jaiden said, ‘Don’t worry Coach, I’ve got you tomorrow’, and we’re going to need him. That was the first thing he said to me as I walked off the pitch. Let’s not forget that he had the big bucket there at the end to push it to five.
While Randolph’s defense thwarted top-seeded Moravia, what made the Blue Devils’ comeback effort even more difficult was losing their top scorer, Abram Wasileski, in the third quarter to injury. Wasileski finished with 12 points and forced point guard Kyler Proper to look for different options.
Even without his top scorer, Moravia managed to bring the game down to one possession in the fourth quarter. With 4:11 remaining, Owen Nelson fouled, forcing the Cardinals to drive deeper into the bench for the win.
Moravia managed to cut the lead to 46-43 with 2:47 to go, but that was the last time he scored a field goal and Randolph made free throws in the stretch.
“We have several defenses that we can throw down,” Conley said. “Watching a film, you know right away what you are going to play. Today was 2-3 and it was more of a last minute decision, because we wanted to come in and play the diamond. Throughout the game, we just find out what works. We ended up settling in the 2-3 and it worked out well for us.
The Cardinals are now one game away from their goal of a state championship and will have to go through another group of Blue Devils, this time against Division I Haldane at 5:15 p.m. today back at Cool Insuring Arena.
Haldane won’t be the only thing on the Cardinals’ minds, as they will also be thinking of their female counterparts playing in the NYSPHSAA Class C Semifinals this afternoon against Union Springs of Division IV in Troy.
“The community…we’re just blessed right now,” Conley said of the girls playing in the state semifinals today. “This whole case that we have going on is incredible. We’re going to bed tonight knowing we’re going to the state championship, wake up and go see the girls in the semifinals. We are simply blessed and grateful for this opportunity.
“Not many schools would spend the money to bring their cheerleaders here and that’s just huge for us,” added Drew Hind. “Having them here just gives us that energy and then seeing our girls go to state championships too. All is well, our community is just amazing.
Wasileski 5 2 12, Kelly 2 1 5, Proper 4 1 10, Bell 1 0 2, Baylor 4 0 8, Nye 2 0 6, Adams 0 0 0. Totals 18 4 43.
ONelson 0 0 0, Hind 8 3 20, GNelson 1 0 2, Conley 8 0 20, Huntington 2 0 4, Kelly 1 2 4, Farnham 0 0 0, Freeman 0 0 0. Totals 20 5 50.
3 point goals – Proper, Nye 2, Hind, Conley 4.
Moravia 16 5 13 10 — 43
Randolph 20 3 18 9 — 50
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