HERKIMER, NY – It was supposed to be a coronation of a new Center State Conference champion on Monday night, when the Herkimer Magicians were finally supposed to break West Canada Valley’s stranglehold on the Division II title. The fact that it was the Magicians’ senior night would make the victory against a Little Falls team struggling to reach .500 just that much sweeter.
Unfortunately, someone forgot to tell the Mounties.
Ryan Feane scored 25 points for Little Falls, almost half of those coming from beyond the arc, as the Mounties got to .500 with the 66-56 victory. Herkimer’s loss, combined with West Canada Valley’s win over Dolgeville on Monday, split the Division II title between the Indians and the Magicians.
“This was the best we’ve played,” Little Falls head coach Brian Dodge said. “We played defense and we protected the ball…if we continue to do that, we’ll be a tough out [in sectionals].”
“Everything just felt good,” Feane said of his performance. “I got into a rhythm and didn’t look back.”
From the opening tip, it seemed that everyone wearing purple got into the rhythm Feane mentioned. The Mounties kept Herkimer scoreless for almost the whole period, while going on a 15-0 run of their own. Unfortunately for the Magicians, poor ball handling and almost no presence under the net kept their half of the scoreboard at zero for over seven minutes of game time. Luckily, Herkimer was able to get five straight to end the period, cutting the lead to ten at the first period buzzer.
“We just couldn’t get anything going tonight,” Herkimer head coach Mark Blask said. “They outphysicaled us. We spent a lot of the first half just watching. [I give] All the credit in the world to Little Falls…Ryan Feane played like a monster tonight.”
The Magicians would find a stroke of their own to start the second quarter, helping them cut the lead back to single digits quickly with an early three-pointer. Now, it was the Mounties having a hard time finishing on both sides of the ball, as the long-range shot fell early and often for Herkimer. By the end of the period, the Magicians would lead in that statistic, four to two. Unfortunately for Herkimer, the Mounties continued to dominate under the basket, out muscling the Magicians for almost every rebound.
“A big focal point for us tonight was one and done for them,” Dodge said. “Everybody did a good job rebounding, not just one or two of them.”
That advantage under the basket, led by seniors Parker Tooley and Mack Failing, allowed the Mounties to maintain their lead on the fast break and get almost everyone on the score sheet. Failing and junior Mason Trumbull led the way with quick shots off of the aforementioned fast break, pulling the lead to 14, 32-18 at the half.
The Magicians came out firing at the start of the second half, scoring five of the quarter’s first seven points to reel the deficit back to single digits. However, the shots from beyond the arc would finally drop for the Mounties just slightly later into the third period. Led by Feane, who scored 10 of Little Falls’ 15 points in the quarter, the Mounties cruised to an 11-0 run midway through the quarter to extend the lead back to 20 at one point in the period. On the other side, the Magicians could not get anything to fall as the Mounties continued to outmuscle them under the rim. When the buzzer sounded to signal the end of the third, Little Falls was able to maintain their lead at 47-30.
“This was definitely the best game we’ve played,” Dodge said. “[Herkimer] wasn’t going to quit, they were going to push…I congratulate my guys for being there at the right time.”
However, at the beginning of the fourth quarter, the Magicians started to get hot as their shots from behind the arc began falling through the net. This was especially true for junior James Aiello, who sunk two quick threes to help Herkimer outscore the Mounties 8-2 in the first two minutes of the period. Another pair of three-pointers by senior James Healy and sophomore Mardoni Laguerre brought the deficit to single digits with six minutes left.
Unfortunately for Herkimer, that’s where everything started to go wrong, as the fouls continued to mount, sending Little Falls to the line several times in the final quarter. As a matter of fact, the Mounties — who at that point were 2-6 from the free-throw line – went 16-20 in the final period. That would allow Little Falls to keep the Magicians at arm’s length for the rest of the game, even forcing Herkimer to pick up two big technical fouls as the clock wound down.
“We lost our cool,” Blask said simply. “We lost it mentally, and that’s basically what we talked about in the locker room, that we needed to keep our composure. We were really scrappy in the fourth quarter, but we spent so much energy getting the lead down to six, there wasn’t much in the tank [at the end].”
Those fouls would prove to be the difference. Little Falls maintained their composure the rest of the way, led by late baskets from Failing and junior Ted Schoff, to keep Herkimer from winning the division title outright as the clock showed zero.
“We’ve been playing our best season so far,” Feane said of his team, who have won back-to-back games and are 10-10 (3-5 in the Center State Conference’s Second Division) heading into the Section III playoffs. “Coach has put us through lots of good practice this week, and told us to finish strong. We didn’t let up tonight…We just keep it up and don’t look back.”
“It’s a big win…it shows we’re capable,” Dodge said of his team, who will likely spend their whole time in the Section III playoffs on the road. “No matter what seed we get [at Wednesday’s seeding meeting], we’ll execute the best we can.”
Despite the loss, the Magicians will share the CSC-II championship with West Canada Valley– both finished with identical 6-2 records within the division– and will start the playoffs with a home game. Even though the Magicians did not have their best game on Monday, Blask saw the bad game as a learning experience.
“We’ll just get better from this,” Blask said. “We’ll work the next four days and get ready for Friday.”
Little Falls Mounties 66, Herkimer Magicians 56
Mounties 15 17 15 19 66
Magicians 5 13 12 26 56
Little Falls Mounties (66)
Ryan Feane 7 7-8 25, Cal Bennett 1 4-4 6, Mason Trumbull 4 2-6 10, Mack Failing 4 4-6 13, Parker Tooley 1 0-2 2, Patrick Reardon 3 0-0 6, Ted Schoff 2 0-0 4. Totals: 22 17-26 66.
Herkimer Magicians (56)
James Healy 4 2-2 13, Billy Stark 2 0-2 4, Matthew Gallagher 1 0-0 2, Mardoni Laguerre 5 1-1 13, Jordyn Lanaux 2 0-0 6, James Aiello 6 2-3 18. Totals: 20 5-8 56.
Three-point Field Goals: Herkimer 11 (Aiello 4, Healy 3, Laguerre 2, Lanaux 2), Little Falls 5 (Feane 4, Failing).
JV Score: Herkimer 50, Little Falls 41.
Records: Herkimer 13-7, 6-2 CSC-II, Little Falls 10-10, 3-5 CSC-II.