SYRACUSE — After making a deep run into sectionals, the Sackets Harbor boys basketball team simply met its match in Hamilton on Sunday.
A more experienced and seasoned Emerald Knights team turned back the Patriots in their first appearance in a Section 3 final in eight years.
The senior forward duo of Reese Snyder and Hudson Idzi scored 17 and 14 points, respectively, as second-seeded Hamilton downed top-seeded Sackets Harbor, 58-34, in the Section 3 Class D title game at Onondaga Community College’s SRC Arena.
The Patriots (22-2) put up a valiant effort, but struggles in shooting against the Emerald Knights’ pressure defense ultimately doomed their opportunity to claim a sectional title as they faced an uphill climb for much of the game.
“It’s a tough way to lose,” Sackets Harbor’s Austin Griner said. “We worked hard to get here and we’ll be better next time.”
Meanwhile, Hamilton (21-3) secured a Section 3 title a year after losing to Cincinnatus in overtime in the 2022 final.
“This is amazing, especially after the heartbreak we felt last year,” Snyder said.
“It’s just feels like a dream after we came so close last time,” Idzi said.
After an encouraging start against Hamilton, Sackets Harbor managed to score only five points in the pivotal second quarter.
“It was rough and you have to give Hamilton credit,” Sackets Harbor coach Jeff Robbins said. “They played like seniors and our youth showed a little bit, but there’s nothing you can take away from our guys.”
The Patriots faced tough sledding for much of the game, especially shooting the ball. Griner, a standout junior guard, was held to four points, including only one basket.
“They made it tough, it’s a little frustrating,” said Griner, who scored 32 points in his team’s semifinal win against West Canada Valley last Saturday. “Their 1-3-1 (defense) really limits our shots and they made deflections, which makes it hard to get the ball inside.”
Facing the Emerald Knights’ aggressive defense, the Patriots also went nearly 9½ minutes with only one basket — a 3-pointer from Griner with 4:20 left in the first half — a drought that stretched into the third quarter.
“They’re just bigger, stronger,” Robbins said of Hamilton. “It’s hard to simulate what they do in practice, you can watch a lot of tape. But they did a good job against us.”
Meanwhile, Hamilton closed the first half on an 8-0 surge to build a 33-15 lead heading into halftime.
“They spread us out in the first half, they got out in transition and they really hammered us on the boards, which is what we were most worried about was rebounding,” Robbins said. “It was a physical game and obviously they had the height advantage.”
Marcus Castine drained a 3-pointer with 5:12 left in the third quarter to draw Sackets Harbor within 35-18, but Snyder and Luke Jackson answered with two quick baskets, the second set up by a turnover, to push Hamilton’s lead to 21 points.
“I think once we started fast breaking, we got off to a good start,” said Idzi, who was selected as the tournament’s MVP. “It just makes us a better team when we’re all running and that definitely showed.”
The Patriots closed to within 16 points on two free throws from Castine with 1:11 left in the period, but the Emerald Knights responded by scoring the next seven points to lead 48-25 with 6:25 remaining, capped by Idzi’s 3-pointer.
“Our defense leads to offense,” Snyder said. “And we wanted to keep up the pace in the second quarter and pretty much shut down their shooters. They’re a good 3-point shooting team, so we wanted to shut down guys like Griner.”
“Offensively, we just couldn’t get anything going,” Robbins said. “We turned the ball over a lot and we did get some looks, but we didn’t make them.”
Earlier, after Hamilton scored the game’s first seven points and raced out to a 9-2 lead, Sackets Harbor forged an 8-0 run to take a 10-9 edge.
But that proved to be its only lead of the day as Logan McPherson followed with a 3-pointer for a 12-10 lead through the first period.
Castine scored 10 points to lead Sackets Harbor and fellow sophomore Ethan Tracy finished with eight. Both Griner and Castine were named to the Class D all-tournament team.
The Emerald Knights, who are ranked ninth in the state in Class D, will advance to face Section 10 champion and No. 2-ranked Heuvelton (21-3) in a state regional final at 6:45 p.m. Friday at SUNY Potsdam.
“We played good defense, which is what we knew we needed to do,” Hamilton coach Tom Blackford said.
Saturday’s result may ultimately serve as a valuable learning experience for the Patriots, who look to return their entire starting lineup, which this season included Griner as well as four sophomores.
Sackets Harbor played in its first Section 3 final since 2015, when it lost in overtime to New York Mills.
“I’m extremely proud of them,” Robbins said. “I knew we were going to be all right and these guys got some good minutes last year. But to lose your best player and your leader (Tyler Green to graduation), and then to turn right around and have a better season like this, it’s pretty remarkable.”
The Patriots last won a sectional title in 2012 en route to also capturing the state crown.
“And we still have a bunch of sophomores and juniors so the future is bright and there’s nothing to be ashamed of,” Robbins said. “So we’ve just got to use this experience as motivation for next season.”
“We have to learn from this and just come back stronger,” Griner added.
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