It’s not often that a 20-1 team goes into their next game as a substantial underdog, but that’s how many will view the Hoosick Falls Panthers in their Section II class C final Friday night in Glens Falls.
Why? Three reasons come to mind.
Number one their opponent, the Lake George Warriors, are the defending state champions in the C classification and are unbeaten in their last 50 outings including a 23-0 mark this season. Their average margin of victory this year is 32 points and the closest game the Warriors have played was a 73-57 affair over Granville at the end of January.
Secondly, Hoosick Falls and Lake George met on 1/27 with the Warriors posting a 55-30 “W”, with Lake George taking control after the break on the strength of a 30-14 advantage over the final two frames.
Lastly the Panthers will be without injured forward Tristan Williams. Williams averaged 18 points per game for the Falls this year and was their leading scorer in the loss to Lake George back in January.
But let’s not fit the Warriors to the Class C crown just yet. The Falls hails from the Wasaren where there’s rarely a night off, and while Lake George carries a long winning streak the Panthers have one of their own going 53 games in league play without a loss. Despite every team in a quality conference taking their best shot, Hoosick Falls is unbeaten in nearly four years of league runs. They know how to win and expect to do just that every time out.
Lake George is a high scoring squad averaging 75 points nightly and the Warriors can shoot it from distance connecting on 190 triples this year. They allow 43 points on the defensive end and shoot 62% from the foul line.
Senior center Chris Becker leads the attack scoring 20.8 points per contest, and senior forward Mason Flatley adds 15.8 nightly with 64 makes from deep. Senior guards Connor Vidnansky and Alex Leonelli combine for 16 points nightly and the pair have drilled 73 treys between them.
Hoosick Falls averages 63 points per contest while allowing opponents 43 nightly. The Panthers have bottomed 74 3-pointers and shoot an excellent 76% from the stripe.
Junior guard Jon Kempf leads the offense scoring 21.6 per and junior guard Max Kipp averages just under 10 at 9.2. The duo have combined for 51 hits from behind the arc. Junior Isiah Burnett has been in doubles in the last two sectional games with 17 and 12 points respectively.
When you look at the Lake George numbers one thing jumps out at you. Their long ball prowess. They are third in Section II with 190 makes and four Warrior players have connected on 25 or more. In their three sectional wins Lake George has made 35 triples, including 16 in a round one 105-53 victory over Cambridge.
The size of Lake George also presents problems with Becker listed at 6’7″ and Flatley at 6’5″. While the Panthers will miss the 6’5″ Williams for many reasons, none more so than his ability to guard in the post and battle the big front line of the Warriors off the glass.
But the Falls has the athletes to get out and contest at the three point arc, and they’ve adjusted well since the loss of Williams posting a win over Waterford in the Wasaren championship game, and three sectional “W’s” by a margin of 19 points per game.
Panthers head coach Mike Lilac Jr. is in his 23 year with nearly 400 wins under his belt, having seen it all in his two plus decades roaming the sidelines. Coach Lilac will put a game plan in place, as he always does, that will give his Panthers an opportunity.
It will be tall order for Hoosick Falls at the Cool Insuring Arena Friday night in their 5:30 tip. But even though they’ll be underdogs, depsite a 20 win season, the Panthers have more than a puncher’s chance in this one and don’t be surprised if the Falls lands the haymaker and claims the Class C crown.