GLENS FALLS — Semifinal stumbling blocks in the Section II Class D boys’ basketball tournament had been an all-too-familiar occurrence for Northville in the 14 years since its last area championship.
“You had to remind me,” Northville coach John Karbowski said.
A sloppy first half Thursday against North Warren could have stirred up those echoes again, but this time, the Falcons were able to avoid the pitfalls from prior years.
Held to seven points through the first 15-plus minutes of the first half, the Falcons got into double digits just before the halftime buzzer, then forged in front by attacking the basket in the fourth quarter before defense, rebounding and clutch free throw shooting preserved a 45-36 victory at Cool Insuring Arena.
“It was definitely a struggle in the first half,” Karbowski said, “but we knew that only being down one and not playing very well in the first half that we knew we could get more aggressive.”
The win sends the No. 2 seed Falcons (15-7) into an all-Western Athletic Conference championship game on Saturday at 11 a.m. back at Cool Insuring Arena against OESJ. Northville pulled out a 61-51 win in the teams’ Feb. 5 regular-season meeting in St. Johnsville.
Northville’s semifinal win over No. 3 North Warren (13-9) came despite major struggles to score in the first half. The Falcons made just two shots from the field in the game’s first 13 minutes, but North Warren was almost equally as futile, and Northville was able to get within 12-11 at the half on late baskets from Wyatt Sira and Jacob Frank.
“It was a sigh of relief,” Karbowski said. “We just had to settle in a little bit. It was sloppy for both teams in the first half. I knew if we could settle in, we’d be in good shape for the second half.”
In the second half, the Falcons — who missed all six of their 3-point attempts — continued aggressively hunting interior looks, taking a 15-14 lead on a putback by Frank with 5:15 left in the third quarter. That put Northville in front for good, with an 8-2 burst ending the quarter to give the Falcons a 27-19 advantage.
“It’s just the back-and-forth thing,” North Warren coach James Cuyler said. “They broke away a little bit in the late third.”
Northville twice pushed its lead to double digits in the fourth, and while North Warren hung around thanks to nine fourth-quarter points from Sean Evans — who scored a game-high 16 — Northville was 12 of 16 from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter and North Warren was held to 3 of 31 shooting from 3-point range as the Falcons held on for the victory.
“We’ve been pretty good from the line all year,” Karbowski said. “It’s been one of the things that we really emphasize in practice.”
Frank finished with 10 points, 11 rebounds, five steals and four assists for Northville. Daniel VanNostrand added nine points and Evan Tamulaitis contributed eight points, 12 rebounds and a pair of blocked shots.
“The goal is to win a sectional championship,” Karbowski said. “We’re there [in the championship game], but we’re not satisfied yet. It’s back to work tomorrow. We’ve got one day to prepare for a very good OESJ team.”
North Warren 5 7 7 17 — 36
Northville 5 6 16 18 — 45
North Warren scoring: Jennings 0-2-2, Conway 3-0-7, Evans 6-1-16, Tyrell 1-0-2, Willette 1-1-3, Beadnell 1-3-5, Morehouse 0-1-1. Northville scoring: Artikuski 2-3-7, Frank 3-4-10, VanNostrand 1-7-9, Mitchell 1-0-2, Cordone 1-0-2, Sira 3-1-7, Tamulaitis 3-2-8. Scoring totals: North Warren 12-9-36, Northville 14-17-45.