POTSDAM - The 2012-13 OFA boys basketball team gained a great deal of notoriety with its three-point shooting.
But the Blue Devils won their championships with defense.
On Saturday, coach Mark Henrys NAC Central Division Co-Champions returned their program to the New York State Class B Tournament and into the quest for the overall Section 10 Championship by prevailing in an tenacious defensive showdown and a duel of ironclad wills with Potsdam 46-36.
The 19-1 and number six state-ranked Devils ended Potsdams three-year reign over Class B. A reign which followed seven straight titles by OFA.
Potsdam plays hard all of the time and is an outstanding defensive team. To beat them three times this season is a major feat. Our defense was definitely the difference especially in that third quarter when we held them to three points, said Coach Henry.
Jack Manke played his best game of the season in the post and Colin Ross came off the bench and just gave us great energy again. He just never quits on a play and makes things happen.
Ross entered the game in the third quarter with OFA leading 25-22 and the collective biorhythms on the court pointing toward the possibility of an extended stalemate.
But instead six minutes of mayhem ensued where the Devils held the Stoners scoreless and reeled off a 13-1 run capped by a driving three-point play by Matt Piercey for a 38-23 lead.
Moments after Manke scored inside off a penetration assist from Pat Cosmo; Ross took a steal for layup. He followed with a fastbreak conversion and later made a flying block from behind to break up a lay-in attempt by the Stoners 6 7 center Shawn Clark.
We played extremely hard and played very well defensively but we just couldnt get our offensive execution going, said Potsdam coach Brooks Bigwarfe who helped Steve Kmack guide a Stoner team to the New York State Final Four two years ago.
But OFAs defense had a lot to do with that. They have it all and should do very well in the state tournament. And I hope they take it home.
OFA senior Pat Cosmo said that getting to the state tournament was amazing and that he and his teammates were really excited about competing for the overall Section 10 title which OFA last won in 2008 at the end of a five-year reign.
Cosmo and several of his teammates watched some of those games as youngsters and dreamed of winning a championship at Maxcy Hall.
We have talking about winning this championship since we were in fifth grade. Potsdam was a very tough team and as a team we just dug in a played great defense, said Cosmo.
Matt Piercey did a great job of staying with Konnor Bigwarfe who is a great three-point shooter and Colin Ross came in a just sparked us again. I dont even know what to call the energy Colin brings, he just plays the game right.
Doing everything right was also the signature of a balanced winning offense led by Kinnon LaRose who scored a game-high 12 points with three assists and three steals. Breton LaRose tallied eight points with six rebounds and Piercey finished with seven points. Manke and Cosmo each tallied six points with six rebounds and Ross snatched three steals to go with his four quick points.
The Devils never trailed after opening a 7-0 lead and answered every bid by Potsdam.
The first retort came on a hurried three-pointer at the buzzer of the first quarter by Cavan LaRose after a three-pointer by Konnor Bigwarfe cut the difference to 12-7.
Bigwarfe led the Stoners with nine points and Will Coleman followed with eight including six in the fourth quarter.
Owen Mitchell tallied seven points to complement a very assertive rebounding effort and Nick Vaccaro struck for five points in the first half. Jacob Bryant hit a fourth quarter three and Shawn Clark, who supplied three emphatic blocks, scored a field goal along with Tom Hobbs.
NOTES: OFA will return to Maxcy Hall on Wednesday for a 5 p.m. matchup with Class C Champion St. Lawrence in the Section 10 semi-finals. Massena (Class A) and Madrid-Waddington (Class B) will play at 7:15 p.m. following the Northern Conference Awards presentation which climaxes with the Joe Jukoski Memorial Award...OFA stands one game away from Class B Final Four and will host the winner of a game between the Section 7 and Section 2 champion at Maxcy Hall on March 9.