COOPERSTOWN — Cooperstown defeated visiting Westmoreland, 68-54, Monday, Jan. 13, in a Center State Conference Division III boys basketball game, giving the Hawkeyes nine consecutive wins.
While eight of 11 players are gone from last season’s state championship team, the nine-game win streak is just one way that this season’s Cooperstown team is looking like the squad that won the program’s first state title.
“It’s a really special thing about this Cooperstown program,” Hawkeyes senior Ryan Lansing said. “Coach Lambert hammers that into us. If we play with intensity and we play together, we can win every game.”
Cooperstown took an 11-1 lead after one quarter and a nine-point lead into halftime, but the third quarter saw Westmoreland draw as close as three. However, the Hawkeyes falter produced a handful of turnovers and easy baskets to regain control.
“We started the season with 28 turnovers in our first game and 27 in our second. And you could see tonight why,” Lambert said. “We do like to make the game a little bit faster than most people want to play. But there are also times when he have to slow it down and make sure we know what’s going on.”
The challenge of playing high-energy defense along with calm, collected offense is heightened by the fact that Lansing, the lone returning starter from last year’s team, as well as a primary leader and ball-handler, is historically a high-energy player.
“In practice, coach is always telling us to slow down. He says we need 9.2 speed, not 9.7 speed,” Lansing said. “Being a senior, I need to bring people back in. People get carried away with the energy, and we love the energy. But it’s got to be channeled in a specific way for us to be successful.”
Entering the season, the Hawkeyes figured to rely heavily on Lansing as well as juniors John Kennedy and Spencer Lewis, with those three being the only players with experience from the previous season. They have produced so far for the Hawkeyes, with Kennedy posting a team-high 15.5 points per game along with 15 rebounds per game through 10 contests. Lewis follows with 11.5 points per game and Lansing contributes 10.3.
But early foul trouble for Kennedy and Lansing saw the depth that has developed and carried Cooperstown on its win streak. Quality minutes from Ubner, Kendall Haney, Joe Senchyshyn and David Valmas helped the Hawkeyes retain most of their lead during the second quarter.
Kaishaun Jefferson, a senior who is averaging 11.2 points per game, moved into the district from Utica Proctor, has given Lambert’s team boasts greater depth than may have been predicted at the beginning of the season.
“Everybody plays, first of all. And at the end of these games, when guys that don’t play a lot are in, I expect them to play well and extend the lead or keep it. And we are going to need those guys,” Lambert said, referencing the importance of depth in last season’s run.
Kennedy scored 11 in the second half to tie for the game high and lead the Hawkeyes with 17 points. Haney had nine points, while Lansing, Lewis and Senchyshyn each had eight. Jefferson had seven and Sam Grigoli had six as nine players scored and 12 saw the floor for Cooperstown.
The Hawkeyes will need that depth in the coming weeks. They travel to Mohawk Valley Community College on Wednesday, Jan. 15, to play division rival and last season’s section final opponent Utica Academy of Science and then visit Class B power Westhill on Saturday, Jan. 18.
Cooperstown 68, Westmoreland 54
Westmoreland ..... 1 17 15 21 - 54
Cooperstown ..... 11 16 20 21 - 68
COOPERSTOWN (9-2, 4-0): Ryan Lansing 3 2-4 8, Spencer Lewis 3 0-0 8, Kaishaun Jefferson 2 3-4 7, David Valmas 1 0-0 2, Kendall Haney 4 0-0 9, Dillon Burns 0 0-0 0, Joe Senchyshyn 4 0-0 8, Chris Ubner 1 0-0 3, Sam Grigoli 3 0-0 6, Alex Hage 0 0-0 0, Ian Quinn 0 0-0 0, John Kennedy 8 1-4 17. TOTALS 29 6-14 68.
WESTMORELAND: Piersall 3 6-9 13, Lagasse 4 8-11 17, Brown 0 0-0 0, Schram 0 1-2 1, Livingston 1 0-0 3, Suber 1 0-0 3, B. Doyle 0 0-0 0, Bulisheck 0 0-0 0, Dillon 1 0-0 2, M. Doyle 7 1-2 15. TOTALS 17 16-24 54.
Three-point field goals: C 4 (Lewis 2, Haney, Ubner); W 4 (Piersall, Lagasse, Livingston, Suber).