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Potsdam boys advance past Salmon River to Class B final

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POTSDAM – The Potsdam Sandstoners and Salmon River Shamrocks split their regular season games during the 2013-14 winter season and both coaches expected a hard-fought battle for Wednesday’s Section 10 Class B semifinal contest.

The battle was there, but the Sandstoners (10-9) held the hot offensive hand when it counted to advance to the title contest on Saturday with a 61-53 win over Salmon River in a playoff game contested on the Stoners’ home court.

With the victory, Potsdam earned the challenge of taking on the No. 2 team in the state in Class B – the OFA Blue Devils, who also advance to the title game with an 85-38 thumping of the Canton Golden Bears on Wednesday.

Potsdam 61, Salmon River 53: The Sandstoners wasted little time in taking the game’s initial lead against Salmon River and quickly jumped in front 8-0 as Nick Vacarro tossed in a pair of early 3-pointers. Potsdam increased its lead to 10-0 on a Dequan Pitts slam dunk midway through the opening stanza. Shortly after the two-handed flush off a set play, the Shamrocks finally scored their first basket of the game and Kason Tarbell got in behind the swarming Potsdam defense.

Salmon River weathered the early Potsdam run and worked extremely hard to get back into the game, and pulled to within two points, 12-10, by the end of the first quarter.

Then it was time for the Potsdam defense to take over. The Sandstoners limited the Shamrocks to just six points in the second quarter, while the hosts dropped in another dozen of their own to forge a 24-16 lead at the half.

The never-say-die Shamrocks didn’t quit and nearly matched Potsdam point-for-point in the third quarter. But the hosts still managed to increase their eight point halftime lead to 10 points, 42-32, after three quarters of up-and-down-the-court action. The Sandstoners took their first 10-point lead midway through the third, but junior varsity call-up Nick Hynes had something to say about that and single-handedly pulled Salmon River to within seven points with a pair of three-point plays. The first was a trey from beyond the arc, while the second was a traditional bucket and foul shot. Hynes again attempted to trim the Potsdam lead late in the third, with a steal and a coast-to-coast drive for two points, bring the SRC deficit down to six points, 38-32. Potsdam closed out the stanza with the next four points to increase its advantage back to 10 points prior to the third-quarter buzzer.

Salmon River went all out over the final eight minutes trying to get close enough to tie the game, but could not bring its deficit any closer that seven points. Antoine Domino named a pair of 3-pointers in the final quarter to cut the Potsdam lead to seven, but the Sandstoners hand too much game and held on for the eight-point victory.

Although it was a team effort, Potsdam had three players reach double figures as the season was extended by at least one more game. Vaccaro and Pitts led the Sandstoners with 15 points apiece, with Vaccaro tossing in three buckets from downtown. Jake Mitchell followed with 13 points as Jack Byrnes and Brian Cole scored seven and five points, respectively. Ethan VanBlommenstein (4 points) and Travis Stephenson (2 points) rounded out the Potsdam scoring.

“We’ve really developed as a team this year and our younger guys are coming through late in the game when it counts for us now,” noted coach Brooks Bigwarfe after the Sandstoners turned back the Shamrocks. “We had a game plan coming in and the kids did a great job of sticking with the game play and executing what they had to do to win.”

Domino and Nick Hynes paced the Shamrocks with 17 points apiece, as Domino produced three of the team’s five treys. Josh Hynes added 11 points to the season-ending effort, while Kason Tarbell and Russ Oakes completed the Salmon River scoring with six and two points, respectively.

Potsdam will face the OFA Blue Devils (18-1) at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday at SUNY Canton.

“We know playing Ogdensburg will be a huge task,” said Bigwarfe. “We’ll need to play hard on defense all four quarters. Hopefully, we can slow the game down on offense and knock down our shots.”

OFA 85, Canton 36: In the other Class B semi-final on Wednesday, Kinnon LaRose tallied 14 of his game-high 24 points in the third quarter and seniors Matt Piercey and Collins Ross followed with 21 and nine points in the final home games of their all-star careers as the top-seeded Blue Devils raced past the Golden Bears.

LaRose went 5-6 from the free throw line and delivered four steals and four assists in victory where Piercey buried three threes with five assists and five steals and Ross grabbed six rebounds.

Evan LaPoint capped an outstanding senor season for the Bears (9-11) scoring 13 points, Dan Ames netted six and Francesco Palumbo and Scott Wight each added four. Loudon Porter and Tyler Trahan chipped in three and two.

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