Hoosick Falls advances to sectional finals

GLENS FALLS, N.Y. — The Hoosick Falls boys basketball team still remembers the sting of the last season's demoralizing exit in the sectional tournament and throughout the season the Panthers have been determined to right that wrong.

Thursday night in the Class C sectional semifinal game against Maple Hill, Hoosick Falls took another step to reaching the goal of a sectional championship. The Panthers topped the Wildcats 68-59 at Cool Insuring Arena to clinch a spot in the sectional final on Saturday against No. 1 seed Lake George.

Like they've done in games throughout the season, Hoosick Falls jumped out to a quick start and got Maple Hill down early. Jon Kempf keyed the Panthers with nine points in the first frame as they held an 11-point lead after one quarter.

"The one thing we look to most is to come out hot," said senior guard Guy Milliman. "We just want to set the tone right from the beginning and we all want that sectional championship really badly, so when we knew we had to win this game to get there, that was enough motivation."

The Wildcats weren't going to go down easily Thursday night, despite a 15-point deficit at the half. Coming out of halftime, Maple Hill found its stroke from the field and exploded in the third quarter with 25 points. Early in the fourth, the Wildcats got the lead down to four points, which put Hoosick Falls in some adversity that it hasn't faced in recent games.

"We talked about staying composed if they did make a run and we were hoping the run wasn't that deep," said Panthers coach Mike Lilac. "We just tried to make stops and come down and get better shots. It was a lot little things that added up in their little run."

"They weren't going to lay down. They kept fighting," added Milliman. "A lot of our games this year, we didn't have to go through that. They toughened up a little bit and they really kept fighting for those 50-50 balls."

Hoosick Falls responded down the stretch to gain back the momentum and eventually ice the game.

Milliman led the Panthers with 23 points. He scored 15 of those points in the second half. The senior did a great job getting into the lane and forcing contact from opposing defenders. For his efforts, he notched nine points from the free-throw line in the second half.

Kempf was strong as well with 18 points.

A big question mark coming into the game was the health of Panthers center Evan McCart. McCart injured his ankle in Hoosick Falls' quarterfinal game against Greenville, so his status coming in wasn't clear.

McCart ended up starting the game and showed little signs of any issue with this ankle throughout.

"(Evan) is a big part of our team," Milliman said. "When he's healthy, I don't think there is a person that can stop him. He's an animal in practice and he showed it in the game."

McCart finished with 12 points on the night.

Sophomore Max Kipp had a nice game for Hoosick Falls with 11 points and pair of three-pointers.

With the semifinal now in the rear mirror, the Panthers turn their attention to their biggest challenge of the season, a date with an undefeated Lake George this Saturday.

The two teams played early in the season with the Warriors coming out on top 59-56.

Hoosick Falls is ready for the challenge ahead of them.

"It could be the best day of our lives. We've been looking forward to it, since last year when we lost," Milliman said. "Now that it's finally here, it's like Christmas morning for us. We can't wait for it."

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


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