Hoosick Falls advances to sectional semifinals

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TROY, N.Y. — Coming into Saturday afternoon's Class C Section II quarterfinal against Greenville, the Hoosick Falls boys basketball team knew if there was one guy they had to stop on the opposing side, it was Cole Ackerman.

In the first round of the sectional tournament against Berne-Knox, the senior guard scored 42 points and knocked down eight 3's.

"We were really concerned about him, so we kind of focused on him and went from there," said Panthers coach Mike Lilac.

The added focus seemed to pay off as Hoosick Falls held the star guard to just 11 points and went on to win 70-51 at Hudson Valley Community College.

When it came to defending Ackerman, Lilac went to the guy he knew could handle the pressure of the assignment, senior guard Guy Milliman. Milliman was up to the task and when he got into foul trouble, CJ Baker stepped in quite nice to that defensive role.

"He did not get into a rhythm," said Lilac of Ackerman. "Guy Milliman has been our rock solid stopper all year and CJ Baker did a great job on him too. If you were to tell me before the game that Ackerman wasn't going to score in the second half, I would have taken that."

All of Ackerman's 11 points came in the first half.

The first quarter of the game was fairly evenly matched, but late in the second, the Panthers took complete control. Hoosick Falls got the lead to 18 by the half and the Spartans couldn't recover.

When the Panthers are playing great basketball, it all starts with their Big Three of Milliman, Jon Kempf and Evan McCart. Those three had nice games Saturday, but it was one of Hoosick Falls' role players that might have shined the brightest, CJ Baker.

Baker, along with Max Kipp, are usually energy guys around the other three and can knock down a 3 when need be for the Panthers. Saturday afternoon, Baker stepped out of that role player expectation and stepped up his game in a big way. The senior went for a game-high 18 points, along with Kempf, who also had 18 points. He scored 10 of those points in the second half.

"CJ Baker had the best game of the year," Lilac said. "He had to guard Ackerman for a lot of the second half. Our role players really stepped up big tonight.

Aside from Baker and Kempf, Milliman scored 15 points, while Evan McCart and Max Kipp both added eight for Hoosick Falls.

With the win, the Panthers move on to the sectional semifinals, where they will take on Maple Hill at the Cool Insuring Arena in Glens Falls, N.Y. Thursday night. The other semifinal matchup is between Lake George and Spa Catholic.

Hoosick Falls is excited for the opportunity to continue its road in the sectional tournament.

"It means a lot since we've been working hard together and we're ready to come play Thursday," McCart said. "This is all our first years playing in sectionals. We haven't made it this far and we're having fun as we go."

If the Panthers want to make it out of the sectional tournament, they're going to have to get the job done at the formerly known Glens Falls Civic Center. The team is ready for that challenge and the atmosphere they're entering.

"It's something you talk about in the offseason to get yourself motivated," Lilac said. "We have a few days to talk about it and talk about how that's one our goals and we want to keep going."

Tip-off is set for 5:30 on Thursday.

Adam Aucoin can be reached at aaucoin@benningtonbanner.com and followed at @AAucoin_Banner on Twitter.


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