Championship Weekend:OESJ to play Whitehall for Class D title tonight

Oppenheim-Ephratah/St. Johnsville coach Jason Brundage, center, goes over a play during a time out during the Western Athletic Conference championship game against Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons Feb. 13 at Fulton-Montgomery Community College. (The Leader-Herald/James A. Ellis)

GLENS FALLS — Playing in the Class D title game for the second time in three years, the Oppenheim-Ephratah/St. Johnsville boys basketball team will be looking for a different result this time around.

In 2016, the Wolfpack lost to Argyle in the finals. OESJ last won the D crown in 2007 when it was competing as St. Johnsville prior to its merger with Oppenheim-Ephratah.

OESJ, the No. 1 seed in this year’s tourney, also reached the semifinals last season before losing to Fort Ann.

By comparison, third-seeded Whitehall hasn’t been to a sectional final since 1976 – a span of 42 years.

The teams met in the postseason last year, with the Wolfpack posting a 69-58 win over the Railroaders in the quarterfinals.

“Coming into the year, I figured Whitehall and us had a good chance of getting this far,” OESJ coach Jason Brundage said.

The Wolfpack and Railroaders will meet today at the Cool Insuring Arena to decide the Class D title.

“Whitehall is a very good team and we’ll need to play well,” Brundage said.

Having played just four times since Feb. 5, OESJ (20-2 overall) is looking forward to playing twice in a week after earning a first-round bye.

“We had 12 days off before our first sectional game. I’d rather be playing sooner,” Brundage said. “I don’t think the extra day off is as much help as people think it is.”

The Wolfpack opened the postseason with a 67-40 victory over eighth-seeded Hawthorne Valley in the quarterfinals last Saturday at Stillwater High School.

Tyler Leon led OESJ with 21 points, while Devyn Jones had 16 points. Elias Sanchez added 14 points.

In the 41-31 semifinal win over fourth-seeded Argyle on Monday at the Cool Insuring Arena, Jones scored 24 points to lead OESJ. Leon added 12 points for the Wolfpack on a night when their offense struggled. However, OESJ allowed just eight points in the second half against the Scots.

“Our defense shouldn’t have an off night because playing defense is about effort,” Brundage said. “The defense picked us up against Argyle when our offense struggled.”

While the Wolfpack needed just two wins to reach the title game, Whitehall (19-4 overall) will be playing its fourth playoff game today.

The Railroaders opened the postseason with a lopsided 88-40 win over 14th-seeded Salem on Feb. 21. Evan St. Claire led the Whitehall offense with 39 points, while Dawson Procella added 16 points. Daniel St. Clair finished with 12 points for the Railroaders.

In their 69-47 quarterfinal victory over sixth-seeded Fort Ann on Saturday, St. Claire finished with 33 points, Procella had 15 points and St. Clair had 10 points.

On Tuesday, Whitehall posted a 67-51 win over second-seeded Germantown. St. Claire scored 27 points for the Railroaders, while Procella had 22 points. St. Clair added 12 points.

“[Whitehall] has some good players in St. Clair, Procella and St. Claire. We need to make them work and no give them easy shots,” Brundage said. “Whitehall is a pretty good defensive team. We’re going to have to work to try to figure it out.”

Today’s game is scheduled to begin at 5:30 p.m.

The winner advances to the Class D regionals on March 10 at Plattsburgh State to face the Section VII champion. Moriah and Crown Point meet Saturday at Plattsburgh State to decide the Section VII crown.

By Paul Wager

Leave a Reply