Johnstown girls take Emma Willard, Granville upsets boys in basketball sectionals

Defense ruled the night Friday in the opening round of the Class B basketball sectionals beginning with the Johnstown Lady Bills 45-24 victory over the Jesters of Emma Willard in the first game of a doubleheader at Johnstown High School.

“Our defense won the day,” Johnstown head coach Tim Derwin said. “The big thing was the eight points our defense allowed in the second half. We fed off defense in transition.”

Leading by five at the end of the first half, the Lady Bills outscored Emma Willard 24-8 during the last two quarters including a 16-2 run in the last five minutes of the third period to pull away for the win. Johnstown got key rebounds from Mallory Baldwin, Lexus Williams, and Jesse Van Nostrand, who sparked the offense with a quick three point shot that pushed the lead back to five after Emma Willard’s Angelina Ferritto had scored four straight points to cut the Lady Bills lead to 22-20. Van Nostrand’s quickness moving the ball up the floor provided much needed energy in the Lady Bills transition offense.

“It was good to see Jess (Van Nostrand) hit some equalizers, we needed that,” Coach Derwin said. “We encourage her to pick her shots. She presses and gets back on defense. Jess is sneaky. We let her do her own thing.”

Van Nostrand’s shot selection continued to pay off for the Lady Bills as the sophomore guard poured in five more points during the big run in the third quarter helping the Lady Bills open up a 37-22 lead heading into the fourth period where both defenses tightened up.

Neither team scored over the first two and a half minutes in the last period, but Van Nostrand again ignited the Lady Bills with her third triple of the game. The Lady Bills sharpshooter finished with a game high 16 points. Lady Bills’ junior Claire Guzielek and senior Lexus Williams battled their way to the rim to account for the rest of Johnstown’s eight points in the fourth quarter. Despite the low point total, the Lady Bills held the Jesters to only two points in the final eight minutes with the only score by Emma Willard coming at the 3:34 mark on a lay up by Kendall Ackner. Johnstown dominated under the boards particularly on defense getting key rebounds from Williams, Chelsea Cirillo, Kayla Fisher, and Alex Van Aernum.

“I’m happy with the girls and how they played,” Coach Derwin said. “They really picked it up and put it over the top in the third quarter. They worked their tails off.”

The Lady Bills had to overcome an early deficit when the Jesters started out strong getting points from Ackner, Courttney Feldman, Sharde Johnson, and Heidi Zahnleuter to take a 12-10 lead after one quarter. Emma Willard shot the ball efficiently from the floor connecting on six of ten shots. Johnstown answered with five of Baldwin’s eight points coming during the quarter, along with scores by Van Nostrand and Guzielek. A free throw by Cirillo gave the Lady Bills the lead at 17-16 early in the second quarter and they never trailed after that.

“They were pretty efficient with the ball in the first quarter,” Coach Derwin said of Emma Willard’s offense. “Our defense and rebounding was huge for us.”

The Lady Bills got an assist earlier in the week from a scrimmage with the Amsterdam Lady Rams. The two teams worked on offense and defense drills before squaring off with several periods of five minute, half court, team play. Coach Derwin noted that the workout helped his team.

“It was productive,” Coach Derwin said. “We worked on offense and defense, and talked about a lot afterwards in later practices.”

Lexus Williams equaled Baldwin’s total with eight points in the winning effort for the Lady Bills. Guzielek added seven points, Van Aernum followed with four points, Fisher had two, and Cirillo had one point for Johnstown.

Sharde Johnson’s seven points led the Jesters. Ferritto was next with six points, Ackner had five points, Zahnleuter contributed four, and Feldman had two points for Emma Willard.

The road does not get any easier for the Lady Bills as they now advance to play the Class B fourth seed Lady Blackbirds of Voorheesville on Wednesday. Tip time for the game at Voorheesville High School is set for 6pm.

“You have to be strong with the ball against Voorheesville,” Coach Derwin said. “We’ll be ready.”

It felt an earthquake had struck the Johnstown High School gym Friday night when the Johnstown Sir Bills and Granville Golden Horde boys basketball teams took the floor for the nightcap of a doubleheader in the Class B basketball sectionals. An enthusiastic group of fans came all the way from Granville to support the Golden Horde and helped provide the energy needed to lift the number twenty seed Granville to the 60-50 upset over the thirteenth seeded Sir Bills.

“The crowd has really stepped up for us lately,” Granville head coach Grant Sharrow said. “They’ve really helped support us all season.”

The Granville faithful fans cheered every shot and free throw, and with good reason. The Golden Horde withstood a second half surge by Johnstown that had put the Sir Bills in the lead 36-35 during the third quarter after a three point shot by Matthew Boyle that energized the Johnstown fans. Granville’s Nick Sumner answered with a three of his own, and his only points of the night, to give the Golden Horde and its fans a lead they never gave back. Granville responded to every Johnstown basket with points coming from Sumner, Trace Bourn, Matt Fuller, Morgan Williams, and Gavyn LeClair, and never let Johnstown go on a run of their own.

“We’ve been in a lot of tough games this season,” Coach Sharrow said. “The third quarter has been the big thing for us. The kids have been working hard. This was good team basketball tonight.”

The third quarter was a positive one for a Golden Horde team that led 24-21 at halftime, and increased the lead to 42-37 heading into the fourth quarter. Granville’s persistent offense stayed ahead of the Sir Bills throughout the second half.

“We were up by one in the third quarter but, it was what hurt us all season,” Johnstown head coach Matt Guzielek said. “Our inability to get a stop. We had some tough match ups with some quick, athletic guys, and not getting the rebounds hurt us.”

Johnstown cut the lead to 45-44 with 3:42 left in the game after a basket by Ben Wager, but Granville went on a 15-5 run to close out the game, and when sent to the free throw line, the Golden Horde made eight in a row to deny the Sir Bills any chance of getting closer. Trace Bourn scored seven of his game high 20 points in the fourth quarter including a three point shot and four out of four from the charity stripe.

“Trace has been waiting for this moment,” Coach Sharrow said. “He’s our anchor and battles for every loose ball. He stepped up tonight.”

Jon Amaral added a three point shot among his five points in the fourth quarter, and along with Bourn’s triple were the only points for the Golden Horde that did not come from the free throw line. Granville made 10 out of 12 foul shots in the fourth quarter, and 17 total for the game.

“We’ve been practicing knocking down our free throws,” Coach Sharrow said. “Normally we hit maybe sixty percent, but it was pretty good tonight.”

The game was close throughout the first half with the team exchanging three point baskets in the first quarter. Bourn, Fuller, and Amaral scored triples for Granville, and Devin Boyle answered for Johnstown. The Sir Bills made several trips inside the paint but came away with nothing to show for it more often than not as Granville got a good effort on defensive rebounds from LeClair and Williams. The Golden Horde led 18-13 after the first quarter, and the Sir Bills managed to chip only two points off the lead outscoring Granville 8-6 in a defense filled second quarter. Jamal Vazquez, Wager, Trevor Sweet, and Tanner Hlozansky scored for the Sir Bills in the second frame, but Granville maintained a 24-21 lead at the end of the first half.

“Granville had a good game plan,” Johnstown Coach Guzielek said. “It’s a credit to them. They stepped up and made shots.”

Devin Boyle led the Sir Bills with 14 points. Wager was next on the charts with 11 points, followed by by Vazquez with eight, Matthew Boyle and Sweet with six each, Hlozansky and James Soler each had two points, and Jacob Bella had one point for Johnstown.

Morgan Williams was next after Bourn with 13 points for the Golden Horde. Amaral scored 12 points, followed by Fuller with 10, and Sumner scored three, and LeClair had two for Granville.

The Golden Horde advance to the next round on Tuesday where they will meet Class B number four seed Hudson. The opening tip at Hudson High School is set for 7pm.

The game was the last in a Johnstown uniform for seniors Tanner Hlozansky, Jack Fitzgerald, James Soler, and captains Ryan Gargiulo, Devin Boyle, Jamal Vazquez, and Trevor Sweet.

“I thanked the seniors for their hard work during their four years with the program,” Coach Guzielek said. “I enjoyed coaching them.”

Authors note; As a reporter I often observe the game from the bleachers to get better perspective on the game. I would like to send out a thank you to the fans of Johnstown, Emma Willard, and Granville for their courtesy throughout both games. During the boys game, when the Granville fans realized that I was a reporter they gave me enough space to see the game and take photos. When the students cheered every “swoosh” of a free throw it reminded me of the movie “Hoosiers”, and I applaud the people from Granville for showing restraint and not rushing the floor after the game. Last night, the fans of all the teams showed what school spirit is all about.

Scott Mulford

Scott Mulford has been covering local sports for over 20 years. He previously wrote for the Amsterdam Star and The Free Press of the Mohawk Valley.