SYRACUSE — Ryan Lansing called it energy. Jack Lambert called it energy. Coach John Lambert called it a combination of focus, energy and defense.
“Specifically, they know they need to focus their energy on defense,” coach Lambert joked after the game.
The second-seeded Hawkeyes employed that combination to perfection on Saturday, causing 11 second-half turnovers and outscoring No. 3 Weedsport, 20-5, in the third quarter to take control of a 59-34 win in the Section III Class C boys basketball semifinals at SRC Arena. The win gives the Hawkeyes a fourth consecutive trip to the section final.
Ahead 24-20 entering the second half, Cooperstown used two steals to score seven points in 33 seconds and make the deficit 11 early in the third. Lansing supplied a steal and four points in the burst.
“We were all sitting at halftime thinking of things we could do better, and everybody said defense,“ Lansing said. “With our coach and captains hyping us up, it was giving us the energy we needed to pull ahead.”
The defensive pressure continued throughout the third, with guards Calvin Sandler and Lansing playing the top spots in Cooperstown’s 2-3 zone. Lansing scored 10 points in the quarter as the Hawkeyes extended a 44-25 lead after three.
“For some reason, everyone has this idea that basketball players have to be lanky and tall, and I’m not saying that doesn’t help,” coach Lambert said. “But I’ve been telling these guys (Sandler and Lambert) since day one, ‘the ball has come down at some point.’ Those two are a lethal combination on defense.”
Cooperstown carried that momentum into the fourth quarter, and scored the final 11 points of the game as pressure defense continued to produce transition opportunities. Lansing, a junior, scored six in the fourth, giving him 16 for the game after going scoreless in the first half.
“We pride ourselves on defense. The guards have such great energy,” Jack Lambert said. “When we press, Ryan, Calvin and Noah (Lifgren) are up front with great traps. It’s all about that energy.”
“I told Ryan at halftime that he is the fastest kid out there. He’s the fastest kid in the gym,” coach Lambert said. “He had to get to the rack, and he did at least five times in the second half.”
While defensive pressure carried the Hawkeyes in the second half, Jack Lambert scored 16 of his team’s 24 points to power Cooperstown in the first half. The Hawkeye senior relied on a 5-for-7 effort at the foul line as Coop struggled from the floor. He scored 10 in the second quarter after a slow start.
“It’s the shooter’s mentality, the next one is going in,” Jack Lambert said. “Coach, my teammates, everybody knows that the next one is going in if I miss the previous one. And I know the same for them, and everyone showed it in the second half.”
Lambert finished 7-for-22 from the field with a game-high 21 points, as well as 10 rebounds for a double-double. Lansing went 8-for-11 from the floor to score his sixteen points along with a game-high four steals.
John Kennedy had eight points and a game-high 13 rebounds, while Noah Lifgren contributed six points for the Hawkeyes.
Joel Blumer led Weedsport with eight points. Matt Powers scored seven and was the only other Warrior to score more than four. Weedsport shot 26.7 percent from the field, compared to 42.4 percent for Cooperstown.
“It was the offense for us,” Weedsport coach Jon Sgarlata said. “We held Cooperstown right around our defensive average for the year, but you can’t score 34 points and beat really anyone up here, especially Cooperstown.”
The Hawkeyes advance to the section final, scheduled for Sunday, March 3 at the Carrier Dome against top-seeded Utica Academy of Science. The Hawkeyes and Atoms split the regular-season series. Tip is scheduled for 1:45 p.m.
Head to thedailystar.com/sports for more photos of Saturday’s action.
Cooperstown 59, Weedsport 34
Cooperstown ...... 10 14 20 15 - 59
Weedsport ...... 8 12 5 9 - 34
Cooperstown: Ryan Lansing 8 0-2 16, Calvin Sandler 1 0-0 3, Jack Lambert 7 5-7 21, Jesse Furnari 0 0-0 0, Noah Lifgren 3 0-0 6, Spencer Lewis 1 0-0 3, Ryan Burns 0 0-0 0, Kyle Santello 0 0-0 0, Ben Tafuro 1 0-0 2, Kyle Meyer 0 0-0 0, John Kennedy 4 0-0 8. TOTALS 25 5-9 59.
Weedsport: Tubby O’Connor 1 0-2 2, Aidan Mabbett 2 0-0 4, Joel Blumer 4 0-0 8, Matt Powers 3 1-2 7, Jake Brown 3 0-2 6, Max Horsford 0 0-0 0, Alex Murray 0 0-0 0, Connor Mabbett 0 0-0 0, Justin Miles 1 0-0 3, Kellin DeJohn 0 0-0 0, Owen Mabbett 2 0-2 4, Steven Allen 0 0-0 0, Garrett Sevier 0 0-0 0, Hunter Morgan 0 0-0 0, Tim Feocco 0 0-0 0, Mitch Feocco 0 0-0 0. TOTALS 16 1-8 34.
Three-point field goals: C 4 (Lambert 2, Sandler, Lewis); W 1 (Miles).