By Jordan J. Michael
CANAJOHARIE –– With a two-point lead and the end of regulation play on the horizon, a win for Voorheesville seemed promising. But, suddenly, the Birds couldn’t get a shot to fall while Canajoharie kept putting points on the board.
It may have been the most frustrating three minutes of Voorheesville’s basketball season, which is now over after the 60-to-49 loss at Canajoharie in the first round of the Class C sectional playoffs on Wednesday evening.
The Cougars finished the game on a 13-to-0 run to advance to the quarterfinals. The Blackbirds were left with questions as to why the ball wouldn’t go through the net when the Birds needed it most.
“We just missed a bunch of shots,” said senior Zach Precious, who scored 10 points, including Voorheesville’s last make. “It killed the game for us.”
In the final minutes of a close game, every turnover and possession is magnified. The Birds’ defenders had hands in the faces of the Cougars’ shooters, but they still knocked down tough shots.
On the other end, Voorheesville’s balloon deflated. Nico Church, Dylan Hensel, and Precious each missed three-pointers down the stretch. Precious also got a shot attempt blocked by Josh Gonzalez, who scored a game-high 22 points.
Just minutes prior, the Birds were in control. It was a quick and shocking change. In the third quarter, Voorheesville led, 44 to 38, after Precious made an amazing circus shot.
“It kind of takes something out of you,” Precious said of the bad ending. “But, we left it all on the floor.”
Voorheesville Head Coach Dave Burch, in his first season at the helm, told The Enterprise that mentality and confidence are lost when shots start missing the mark. Meanwhile, good things start happening for the opponent, and that’s where the game goes awry.
“The ball just doesn’t go in,” Burch said. “You want to will the ball into the basket, and I’m sitting there, hoping to put it in with my mind or something.”
Hensel, who scored 20 points for the Birds, gave his team some much needed momentum by hitting a buzzer beater from half court before halftime. That energy carried over to the third quarter, but Voorheesville could muster only five points in the fourth quarter.
Late in a close game, Hensel said, he thinks about getting stops first. “You hope that those stops convert to offense, but it just didn’t happen,” he said on Wednesday. “We fought hard for the entire season.”
The Blackbirds were without starting point guard Noah Crawford, who was sitting on the bench in street clothes with a sling on his left arm, recovering from a labral tear in his left shoulder. Precious and Hensel said Crawford had a huge impact on the team as a creator.
“It stunk not having him,” Burch said of Crawford. “We press a lot with him, but we didn’t really press much today.”
Burch said that Canajoharie was a “relentless” team that stuck to its game plan and had mental toughness. For Voorheesville, it may hurt right now, but Burch is excited to move forward with his team.
“The boys and I learned a lot this season, and all those ups and downs made us better,” he said. “I’m really proud of how they played, and they should be proud, too.”