OGDENSBURG Coach Mark Henry will lead his OFA basketball team into the state Class B Final Four on Friday with a diverse coaching staff spanning three generations.
It is also one of the most effective in the state, according to Henry, who is assisted by Jim Adams, Zach Dodge, T.J. Hannan, equipment manager John Hannan and junior varsity coaches Scott and Mike Sargent, who became full-time staff members after leading their team to the NAC Central Division JV title.
Coach Henry has called upon the energy, depth and experience of the staff as a major strength for the 22-1 Devils, who will meet 23-0 Syracuse Westhill at 8:30 p.m. Friday at the Glens Falls Civic Center in Glens Falls.
The winner of the game will face the winner of a 7 p.m. semifinal duel between 20-3 Olean of Section 6 and 19-5 Woodlands of Section 1 at 9 p.m. Saturday for the state title.
We have such a great coaching staff because we work so well together and bounce things off each all of the time, said Henry who guided his first and OFAs fifth Final Four team in his fourth year as the Devils varsity coach.
We all have different roles in practice, Henry said. Zach Dodge works a lot with the post players and coach Adams and I work with the guards. Coach Adams is our motivator, he is really great at it.
Henry previously coached the OFA girls varsity basketball team, making one appearance in the Class B quarterfinals. He also coached varsity girls basketball at Heuvelton and led a Heuvelton girls softball team to the state Class D semifinals.
Adams, the self-proclaimed old guy on the staff, traces his coaching roots back to OFA modified boys basketball in the early 1970s. He also officiated for many years and called several games where coach Henry was a standout for Norwood-Norfolk.
He returned to coaching to lead the OFA girls varsity basketball and boys and girls cross country teams. After retiring from OFA, Adams served as an assistant girls basketball coach at Heuvelton Central and helped Lynn Blevins lead the Bulldogs to the state Class D Final Four.
A staff with such a wealth of knowledge works in unison with a team of dedicated gym rats looking to absorb everything their coaches have to offer.
Our coaches are all very easy to work with, said senior co-captain Colin Ross. They all do things a little differently so we have really learned a lot of from them.
In practice we get a lot of individual instruction and that has really helped us.
Its helped them reel off 21 straight wins after a 64-62 loss at Albany Academy in the second game of the season. The Devils started their streak one night later with a 59-57 win over Newark of Section 6.
We are all on the same page all of the time and working with this group of players the past two years has been amazing. They just come in ready to go, Adams said.
OFAs meeting with Section 3 champion Westhill is a classic No. 2 vs No. 1 duel, but the two teams took opposing routes in the final leg of their Final Four journeys.
The Devils rolled past Section 2 Voorheesville 80-49 and Section 7s Plattsburgh 92-49 while the Warriors made their second straight trip to the state semifinals by shading Utica Notre Dame 63-60 in the Section 3 title game and then grinding out a 56-53 overtime win over Section 4s Norwich in the regional final.
Leading the Warriors is guard Jordan Roland, who averages 23 points a game and mixes explosive penetration moves with 58 3-pointers, and 6-foot-5 southpaw forward Tyler Reynolds who delivers most of 17 points per game from the outside. Point guard Jeff Lobello (7 ppg, 5 assists per game) gives the Warriors a poised point guard.
Roland scored 18 of his 24 points against Norwich in the fourth quarter and overtime as the Warriors rallied from a four-point deficit.
Westhill is a very well coached team that plays mostly man-to-man defense and looks to take advantages of mismatches. We need to know where Jordan Roland is at all times, Henry said.
Like usual we need to play at a fast pace, take care of the ball and rebound.
The priorities have been followed expertly all season by the Devils who have raced away from every conference, sectional and regional opponent, averaging 82.9 points per game while shooting 53 per cent as a team.
Talk to NAC Central Division MVP and 1,000-point career scorer Kinnon LaRose about the Devils ability to translate their regular season success into the postseason and he speaks quietly but very effectively.
I think we have gotten better every game because our defense has gotten better, said LaRose, a 6-foot-4 all-purpose junior forward who averages 23.6 points a game and 8.4 rebounds a game. He leads the team along with fellow all-stars in senior guards in Matt Piercey (14.6 ppg) and Colin Ross (13.8 ppg).