BINGHAMTON — It was the same old strategy for Cooperstown boys basketball, just blown up to match the size of the stage.
Jack Lambert set a state final four record with 53 points and the Hawkeyes got key contributions from some less likely sources for an epic, triple overtime, 108-98 win over Greenport in the Class C state semifinals Saturday at Floyd L. Maines Arena.
“It’s the top,” Cooperstown senior Calvin Sandler said. “It was crazy, definitely one of the most exciting games, especially with us going to the final. It’s a big deal.”
After six periods of basketball, the Section XI and Section III champions remained knotted at 91. But the Hawkeyes hit another gear early in the third overtime period, with six points from Lambert and four from John Kennedy, two on an assist from Lambert, putting Cooperstown ahead, 101-92, with just more than a minute left in the frame.
Greenport’s Ahkee Anderson drew the Porters back within six twice in the final minute, but Lambert went 6-for-6 from the line in the last 50 seconds to clinch a spot in the final.
The Hawkeye senior went 20-for-32 from the field, including a 4-for-7 mark beyond the arc and a 9-for-11 effort at the line, to total his 53. He also had seven steals and five assists.
“Obviously the game went to a few overtimes, but the guys trust me,” Lambert said. “I was knocking down some shots early and just kept it going. I had no idea how many points I had, when they announced it, I was just like, “wow, that’s crazy.”
There was plenty of reason for the Hawkeyes to trust their leading scorer, who nearly matched his 22.9 points per game with 18 in a fast-paced first quarter. But it was the play of the Cooperstown forwards, particularly John Kennedy, that kept the momentum for the Hawkeyes in the second.
Tasked with guarding Greenport’s leading interior scorer, Jude Swann, the sophomore reserve struggled early in the second, having his shot blocked more than once while allowing Swann to score eight in the period’s opening minutes.
But Kennedy, who is in his first season of varsity basketball, kept Swann from scoring in the quarter’s last four minutes and notched seven points of his own for a 43-42 Cooperstown lead at halftime.
“I didn’t really know how many points I had scored. I was just taking it one step at a time,” Kennedy said. “It’s really great because you know you can have an off night and the guy sitting next to you is going to pick up the slack.”
Kennedy continued to control the paint, scoring five in the third and four in the fourth. But it was after Swann exited with his fifth foul in the fourth quarter that Kennedy was able to really leverage his size, pulling in rebounds and scoring four points in the run to open the third overtime.
“We knew that he was gonna be the biggest kid out here, and he’s gonna be the biggest kid tomorrow too,” Lambert said. “He was great. He got all the rebounds, his shot has been getting so much better, he’s playing so well.”
Kennedy finished with 25 points and a game-high 22 rebounds.
The Hawkeyes have relied on different players to step up in most of their postseason games, and the trend continued on Saturday. Besides Kennedy’s contribution, Cooperstown got a number of big plays from senior starter Jesse Furnari, including a charge on Anderson in the open court during the first overtime. Ben Tafuro and Spencer Lewis also saw the floor in crunch time for the Hawkeyes.
“I’m sure I sound like a broken record, but I had this plan from the beginning. All 10 or 12 of my guys were gonna play,” coach Lambert said. “There’s a couple where their skills aren’t where the others’ are. But I said to them, ‘we will hopefully be in the arena some day. And I will not throw you into the frying pan not having played. You gotta play now.’”
“‘You might be in there in the final four. You might need to make the shot. You’re gonna have to know all the defenses, you’re gonna have to know all the inbounds plays, you’re gonna have to know all the schemes, get-back concepts.’ I have the utmost confidence, if it’s a matchup I like, of putting anyone in.”
There were also key contributions from other starters. Junior guard Ryan Lansing scored eight points in the fourth quarter, including two big 3-pointers, after going scoreless in the first three periods.
Calvin Sandler continued his string of good performances with 12 points, eight rebounds, three assists and a steady hand for the Hawkeyes in the uptempo contest.
“All of us have to step up at some points,” Sandler said. “I did it when I needed to, Jack did it when he needed to. We all contributed and that’s what got us the win today.”
With the rest of the Hawkeyes filling in the gaps, Lambert took care of the scoring in the crucial moments. He hit a contested baseline jumper with 15 seconds left in regulation to tie the game at 75, and scored 19 in the three overtime periods.
“I’m so proud of Jack. He doesn’t want to let his teammates down, or anybody, and you can get a lot of pressure with that,” Cooperstown coach John Lambert said. “As a dad I’m proud of him, but as a coach, you sit there and go, “one more stop, one more possession, one more stop.”
“ We were talking about it on the bench at the end, saying it was at least 40,” Sandler said. “They announced it was 53 and we were just like ‘oh my god.’”
Aside from Lambert’s record for points in the final four, the game set a tournament record for combined points with 206.
The win puts Cooperstown back in the state final for the first time since 2003 with the opportunity to win the school’s first boys basketball state championship. The Hawkeyes play Middle Early College, which ended defending champion Lake George's 54-game win streak in the first semifinal. Tip is set for 12 p.m. in Binghamton.
“It was a great game. But we gotta bring it again tomorrow,” Jack Lambert said.
Cooperstown 108, Greenport 98
Cooperstown …… 24 19 12 20 9 7 17 - 108
Greenport …… 24 18 15 18 9 7 7 - 98
Cooperstown (24-2): Ryan Burns 0 0-0 0, Jesse Furnari 1 1-2 3, John Kennedy 11 3-8 25, Jack Lambert 20 9-11 53, Ryan Lansing 3 0-0 8, Spencer Lewis 0 0-0 0, Noah Lifgren 3 1-1 7, Kyle Meyer 0 0-0 0, Calvin Sandler 3 3-4 12, Kyle Santello 0 0-0 0, Ben Tafuro 0 0-0 0. TOTALS 41 17-26 108.
Greenport: Ahkee Anderson 8 12-14 30, Ev Corwin 3 3-3 11, Reese Costello 0 0-0 0, Jahmeek Freeman 1 0-0 2, Zachary Riggins 3 2-2 8, Joshua Santacroce 1 0-0 3, Jaxan Swann 9 5-5 26, Jude Swann 8 2-3 18. TOTALS 33 24-27 98.
Three-point field goals: C 9 (Lambert 4, Sandler 3, Lansing 2); G 8 (Ja Swann 3, Anderson 2, Corwin 2, Santacroce).