SCHAGHTICOKE, N.Y. -- As a goalie, Hoosick Falls Central School's Noah Chani is used to plucking balls out of crowds on the soccer field.
But on Friday night, Chani put his hands to use on the basketball court, plucking a rebound out from a crowd of traffic with under 10 seconds left and the Panthers up by only one against Hoosic Valley. The rebound proved to be the final nail in the coffin, as Hoosick Falls hung on for a 43-42 win that sends the Panthers to the top of the Wasaren League.
"I just knew I had to get it. It was a big rebound," Chani said. "We knew someone had to get it. It was coming near me, so I just sealed the guy off and grabbed it."
The rebound encapsulated what was a massive defensive effort for the Panthers. Playing against a team in Hoosic Valley that thrives off the fast break, the Panthers held the Indians in check for a majority of the contest and kept Hoosic Valley to its lowest point total of the season.
"It was a hard fought win," said Hoosick Falls coach Mike Lilac. "It was a great team with a great coach. We did just enough to squeak it out. We did a good job on trying to limit [Mike] Pierre and [John] Rooney."
Pierre and Rooney, the two leading scorers for the Indians, were held to 10 and 14 points, respectively, well under their normal averages.
At the other end of the court, Mark Hackett led the way for Hoosick Falls with 16 points, including 13 points in the first half to keep Hoosick Falls in the game.
In the first quarter, Hoosick Falls' Andrew Hoag would find Austin Pitt (10 points) for a three to start off the scoring, but Hoosic Valley would take a 4-3 lead on a Rooney basket. Hoosick Falls would go back up at 8-6 on a corner three from Hackett on a pass from Will Bradley (9 points), but Hoosic Valley would take the lead back on the next possession on a three from Conway Gillespie. After the first, Hoosic Valley led 16-13.
In the second quarter, Hoosick Falls would make its move to retake the lead when Hackett cut through the heart of the Indians defense to take an 18-17 lead. Hackett would find Chani for a jumper a few plays later to make it 20-17. The Indians were dealt a tough blow moments later, as Rooney went down with a knee injury. Play did not stop, and at the other end Hackett buried a trey off a pass from Chani to make it 23-19. Rooney would return, however, in the second half.
At halftime, Hoosick Falls led 29-23.
In the third quarter, both teams saw their offenses dry up as Hoosic Valley outscored Hoosick Falls 7-6 to make it 35-30 going into the fourth. The highlight of the quarter came at the very end, when Pitt was picked out in the lane by Bradley for a fadeaway jumper as the buzzer sounded.
In the final frame, Hoosick Falls would come out and go up 40-30 on a basket by Pitt. But the Indians were not going to go out quietly.
Over the next several minutes Hoosic Valley slowly chipped away at the lead, with JT Sawyer scoring six of his eight points including four from the free throw line.
But Hoosic Valley was caught in a predicament late. With time winding down, the Indians had only committed one team foul in the second half. Trying to slow the clock down to extend possessions, the Indians had to commit six fouls to get Hoosick Falls to the line. In total, the team saw almost a minute run off the clock before the shots happened.
"It's funny, the way it worked out they didn't have a lot of fouls," Lilac said. "They were pressuring us and it kind of bothered us. There are a lot of different ways you can play that out."
The Panthers, though, saw five of their final six free throws over the last two minutes miss.
The misses opened up a chance for Hoosic Valley, who brought it to a one-point contest when Sawyer was fouled after making a basket. After he hit the free throw, it was 43-42.
Hoosic Valley would foul on the inbounds, sending Levi Brewster to the line. Brewster missed his first shot, giving Hoosic Valley the ball back with time running out.
At the other end, Gillespie went up for a layup but rimmed out. With the ball coming back down, Chani forced his way into the paint to grab the game-sealing rebound.
Chani was fouled on the rebound. He missed his first shot, then intentionally missed the second with 1.7 seconds left. Hoosic Valley got the rebound, but did not have enough time for another shot.
"It's a huge win," Chani said after the game. "It is going to be great for us. It will be a big matchup again at the end of the year if we hold up."
His coach noted after the game that "He has big hands and long arms, he just went up and got it. That was the biggest play of the year for us."
Chani finished with seven rebounds, four steals, and two assists. Hackett hauled in eight rebounds for the Panthers to lead all players. Rooney grabbed seven for the Indians, and added five blocks.
Hoosick Falls moves to 7-1, 6-0 in the Wasaren League with the win, while Hoosic Valley falls to 9-2, 6-1 in the Wasaren.