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Wildcats have no reason to hang their heads

March 27, 2014
By Scott Kindberg - , Westfield Republican / Mayville Sentinel News

SHERMAN - The seniors on the Sherman boys varsity basketball team line up for a photo opportunity in the lobby outside the school gymnasium.

Framed and hanging on the wall behind them is a portion of the gym's old hardwood floor, complete with a wildcat - the school mascot - painted on it.

"Pretty cool, isn't it? says Sherman alumnus Ryan Swanson (Class of 2004), who is now the junior varsity coach.

Oh, if that floor could talk, imagine the hoops stories it could tell? It might regale a listener about the successes of the 1986 team, led by Rich Crane, Greg Field and Randy Boland, and coached by Frank Wasylink, that advanced to the New York State Public High School Athletic Association semifinal, the first by a Sherman boys team.

Or it might moderate the fans' debate of which team - the 2000 or 2002 squads coached by Cory Emory that ended up making a March trip to Glens Falls - was better.

"It's a sense of pride,'' Emory says. "That's what's nice about this gym. You can walk in and see the trophy case, you can see the banners, people know the history and the kids take pride in stepping up. A lot of them know some of those players from the other teams and they always want to compare themselves and who was the best team.

"But, hey, before you can even think about that, you have to make it there first. Then we can talk about it."

The 2013-14 Sherman team is now part of the conversation.

The Wildcats' I-can't-believe-what-I-just-saw shooting exhibition in last Saturday's Class D Far West Regional victory over Batavia Notre Dame certainly qualifies them.

"If you ask them, they'll admit they don't (always) like coming to practice,'' Emory said, "but when the lights are on, they enjoy the stage."

- - -

Emory's earliest memory of Sherman basketball was in the mid-1980s when Crane and company were pressing and running in front of standing-room-only home crowds. Emory was a manager in those days, which allowed him a front-row seat at the heels of his heroes.

"That's kind of how the pipeline goes,'' said Emory, a 1991 Sherman graduate. "So many kids become managers, play in our Saturday morning youth program and then move on, eventually becoming referees or coaches for those little kids. It kind of keeps the cycle of excitement going on."

Swanson said it's not unusual for there to be as many as 150 boys and girls at the gym on a Saturday morning. The high school kids coach the elementary school kids. The sound of bouncing basketballs and sneakers squeaking on the hardwood floor are a rite of passage.

"There's never a dull Saturday,'' said Swanson, whose father, Mel, is the winningest girls coach in Section 6 history, and whose siblings, Nolan, Patrick and Lesley, all were talented hoopsters back in their heyday. "The kids are disappointed it will be canceled this Saturday, because we'll be at states.''

It's not a reach to suggest that most of the town will be in the North Country, too.

- - -

The Wildcats sported a 21-1 record going into the state semifinal, their lone loss coming against Section 6 Class C-2 champion Randolph. They'll face a Coleman Catholic team (16-4) in the semifinal that is coming off an easy, 73-46, victory over Section 11's Shelter Island.

For the record, Kevin Davis scored 19 points, including five 3-point goals, Micah Simmons-Smalls and Dino Celadon had 18 apiece and Doug Terrone added 14 in a game that was essentially over by halftime.

"It looks like the tallest guy is 6-foot-2,'' Emory said, "so they're kind of like us. They seem to like to pressure a little bit, trap a little bit and run the floor. Their scores have shown that many of their games have been high scoring."

And that's OK with Emory.

The Wildcats also like to play an up-tempo style and shoot from distance as witnessed by their 13 treys in a 57-52 victory over Batavia Notre Dame last Saturday. In that game, Robson was 5-of-9 from the arc, Graham was 4-of-10 and Moorhead was 3-of-6. Graham (14.6 ppg, 2.0 spg, 2.5 apg) and Robson (13.4 ppg, 3.0 spg, 5.0 rpg) are the statistical leaders for the Wildcats.

"It will be a nice little matchup for us,'' Emory said before their loss to Coleman Catholic. "Of course, we'll try and run the floor at first. If (Coleman Catholic) seems to be getting a little better of the deal, I believe we can shift gears a little bit, like we had to against Panama (in the Section 6 Class D final) when we had to start pounding the ball inside."

Junior Jake Card can hold his own in the paint as he's averaging 9.5 points and 9.5 rebounds per game.

Moorhead (6.5 ppg, 2.5 spg, 4.0 apg), Myers (6 ppg) and junior Nathan Ottaway (7.0 ppg, 4.5 rpg) round out the top six in Emory's rotation.

"I'm much more calm and relaxed,'' said Emory while preparing for the state semifinal. Sherman's whose trips to the final four resulted in semifinal losses by six and three points to the eventual state champions. "Now, I understand we have a great accomplishment, let's keep our head straight, let's keep working during the week and, yet, let's also have a little bit of fun.''

And before the Wildcats took the floor at the Glens Falls Civic Center, Emory spent a few quiet moments alone, remembering Wasylink, his late coach.

"I was very close to Mr. Wasylink,'' Emory said as his eyes filled with tears. "Before every game, I ask him to help me coach. So far, so good.''



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