JAMESTOWN — Two senior-laden contenders fought to extend their seasons Friday night, but the experienced leaders of the Randolph boys basketball team did just enough to defend their Section 6 Class C2 championship.
Senior guard Branson Morrison made the deciding shot, sinking a three-pointer for his first field goal of the game, giving Randolph a 47-46 lead with 1:35 to play, and the Cardinals held on for a 49-46 C2 final victory over Holland at Jamestown Community College.
Morrison stepped into the open shot on a pass from Ashton Bushey and didn’t hesitate.
“‘Just go in, make one.’” Morrison said he thought as he took the shot. “That's all: make one. Nothing really, it's just another shot, just a game of basketball.”
Despite constant double-team pressure from Holland, senior Tyler Hind scored a game-high 24 points for top-seeded Randolph (22-1). Another senior, Kaleb Steward, helped seal the game with a steal with under 10 seconds remaining, then Hind iced the game with two free throws.
“I missed two free throws so I had to make up for it,” Steward said.
“Kaleb comes back with the biggest defensive play of the game, just making up for it and he didn't waver once from what he does,” Tyler Hind said. “That's exactly what he does is make big plays on defense and doing other stuff.”
Classmates of his son, Randolph coach Kevin Hind has watched Steward and Morrison play with Tyler for a decade.
“Kaleb could be a junior, so he was always smaller and a year younger but I kept him involved in everything we did, every AAU team through probably seventh or eighth or ninth grade and then Kaleb switched over more for soccer,” Hind said. “But for years and years those two would travel around with us and anything I had going with Tyler, they were there with him. They've played a lot of basketball. Kaleb's a good basketball player. Branson's the greatest teammate you could ever ask for, he stays positive, he's the heart and soul of the team.”
Kevin Hind said he put Morrison back in the game for the final four minutes, deciding his team needed more offense.
“He struggled early, he's not the quickest, he's not our best defender, but he's the first one to take a charge, he's the first one to clap his hands and he's the first one to never waver on taking a big shot,” Hind said. “He just doesn't. (Ashton) kicked it to him, he didn't even hesitate for one second and he stroked it and put it in.”
Kevin Hind commended Steward’s defensive performance and endurance to finish the game strong.
“As that game is getting tighter and other kids are starting to get tired, Kaleb is not,” he said. “He is going hard, he is going to fight you until the very end and he is going to get his hands on a ball and when he's playing at a certain level earlier the game, as that game gets tighter, his level is going up and up and up and up. Each second that clock ticks, Kaleb is playing harder.”
Bushey grabbed 10 rebounds and made four assists. Center Gabe McCoy marked eight points, seven rebounds and six blocks.
Jon Nellis led No. 2 Holland (16-7) with 20 points. The Dutchmen rallied out of a 16-7 deficit after the first quarter to lead at halftime, 26-25, and after the third, 36-34.
Holland took a step forward this year after losing to Randolph in the C2 semifinals, 62-39, last winter.
“It was a fight,” Tyler Hind said. “The whole time was just a fight. It's not easy to have three guys on you the whole game and be able to find your teammates and play together. It's not easy and the way that they were playing, they were playing so hard. But we knew that we were going to be in it and our defense kept us in it and we just pulled it out.”
The Cardinals have yet to lose a game in Western New York, with their only loss this season being at Rochester East. Not every game has been pretty, but they haven’t had to be.
“Any team that's ever done anything great, there's going to be a game like this where you had to squeak it out or you didn't have your best game and you put it together, you figure out a way to win,” Kevin Hind said.
“There was a look on our guys' faces down the stretch, we had three seniors on the court, definitely,” Hind added of his senior leaders. “Having Ty and Kaleb on the court, and then Branson, that was huge. Even though things were going rough for Ty, eventually we did enough on the defensive end.”
After winning its third sectional title in four years, Randolph will face Middle Early College in a rematch of last year’s Class C crossover state qualifier on Tuesday at 5:15 p.m. at Buffalo State College. Tyler Hind said the Cardinals will play with the same kind of “chip on their shoulder” that Holland had in Friday night’s C2 rematch.
“We knew that coming in, them losing to us last year, just like us having a chip on our shoulder with Middle College, they had a chip on their shoulder with us because we beat them last year,” he said. “So they were going to play as hard as they possibly could because five seniors, I played as hard as I can because I don't want that to be my last game and that's what they were all feeling too.”
Perry 2 1-2 6, Nellis 8 2-2 20, Kirsch 1 2-4 4, Ostrowski 1 0-0 3, Scheffler 4 1-4 9, Ferrara 1 0-0 2, Staniszewski 1 0-1 2. Totals: 18 6-13 46.
Steward 3 0-3 6, T. Hind 6 9-11 24, Morrison 1 2-2 5, Bushey 1 0-0 3, Rosengren 1 0-0 3, McCoy 4 0-3 8. Totals: 16 11-19 49.
Holland 7 26 36 46
Randolph 16 25 34 49
Three-point goals: Holland 4 (Perry, Nellis 2, Ostrowski), Randolph 6 (T. Hind 3, Morrison, Bushey, Rosengren). Total fouls: Holland 20, Randolph 15. Fouled out: Nellis (H).