Plattsburgh High has a few specific keys for success in today's NYSPHSAA Class B regional final against Watervliet.
Play good team defense and limit second chances and turnovers.
Show it can hang with the Section II champion early.
Limit the high-flying Cannoneers' transition game; if the Hornets get beat in a halfcourt game, so be it, Plattsburgh coach Chris Hartmann said.
After all, he says, his team has nothing to lose.
"They're No. 2 in the state, they're the ones that have everything to lose," Hartmann said. "Nobody expected us to be this far at this point in this season. There's no reason we can't go down, play our game and keep this good thing going."
The Hornets take on Watervliet at 5 p.m. today at Hudson Valley Community College with a shot at the state semifinals on the line.
The Cannoneers (21-1) present perhaps the stiffest challenge the Hornets have faced all season. Watervliet is riding a 19-game winning streak since suffering a 63-53 loss to Class AA Albany Academy early in the season.
In that span, the team has wins over Class A schools like Lansingburgh, Brooklyn's Nazareth and Utica Notre Dame, and St. Dominic's, a Class AA school.
The Cannoneers are coming off a dominant run through the Section II Class B tournament, posting wins of 67-38, 76-34, 74-40 and a 70-40 victory over Cohoes in the championship game.
Hartmann's teams in the past have been competitive with Section II in the state playoffs. In 2007, the Hornets lost a close regional semifinal game to Watervliet. Two years ago, they beat then unbeaten and third-ranked Fonda-Fultonville, also in the regional semifinals.
None of Plattsburgh's current players saw the court in that game.
Senior Ethan Votraw, the team's leading scorer (15.6 points per game) and 3-point man (38), was a sophomore called up for the playoffs that year. Although he didn't play, it was a learning experience.
"The biggest thing I learned is you can't hype the other team too much," Votraw said. "You have to realize they are just a high school basketball team, just like you are, and you can't be too intimidated.
"You have to go in and play just like they are a normal opponent."
Plattsburgh (17-4), unranked, avenged an earlier loss against Potsdam with a 47-37 win Tuesday in the regional semifinals.
The 11th-ranked Sandstoners came in averaging 65 points per game and had even eclipsed 100 once this season.
"Everybody just felt confident going into that game that we could hang with them, and that goes back to the Section VII/X challenge and losing a close one in the last minute," Hartmann said. "It was a weird confidence, and the defense was just outstanding."
That defense will be tested by the Cannoneers, who have four players averaging more than 10 points per game — Jordan Gleason (17.7), Antoine Johnson (16), Tyler McLeod (11.7) and Griffin Kelly (10.3). Gleason has a team-leading 54 3-pointers.
Kelly, a 6-foot-5-inch forward, is a rebounding machine who recently eclipsed 1,000 boards for his career.
"We can't turn the ball over," Hartmann said. "They are very good at turning steals into quick buckets and dunks. We watched the sectional final tape of Section II, and I would say about 60 percent of their points in that game came off of fast breaks.
"They started off with about four dunks in the first quarter. Their guards can really get above the rim. You don't see that in Section VII."
Hartmann said he really doesn't know what to expect because his team — which had no returning starters entering the season — has surprised him so much.
"I know I expect we're going to play the defense that we always have to get us this far," he said, "but other than that, who knows?"
Watervliet Cannoneers (21-1)
Player gp fg ft pts ave.
Jordan Gleason 22 142 51 389 17.7
Antoine Johnson 22 125 80 352 16
Tyler McLeod 22 100 22 257 11.7
Griffin Kelly 22 92 41 227 10.3
Quron Brace 16 24 2 50 3.1
Gleason 54 McLeod 35
Plattsburgh High Hornets (17-4)
Player gp fg ft pts ave.
Ethan Votraw 21 111 68 328 15.6
Rob Fout 21 87 32 210 10.0
Ab Maknani 21 75 23 195 9.3
Nate Harrington 21 47 23 119 5.7
Mike O'Connor 20 34 9 78 3.9
Votraw 38 Maknani 22
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