Cougars hold off Berlin, reach quarterfinals
CANAJOHARIE – Logan Sala helped the Canajoharie Cougars grab an early lead and Canajoharie never trailed in edging the Berlin Mountaineers 64-61 in the first round of the Class C sectional tournament.
The eighth-seeded Cougars were unfamiliar with their opponent, as the two teams shared zero common opponents entering Wednesday’s matchup.
“One of our points of emphasis today was to try to keep them in the 50s,” said Canajoharie head coach Phil Schoff. “Some of their losses have come with being in the 40s or 50s with the exception of the last couple of games.”
The Mountaineers (12-7 overall) got an all-star performance from Central Hudson Valley League all-star Greg Depaolis, but it wasn’t enough to overcome what may have been Canajoharie’s most balanced effort of the season.
Logan Sala kicked off the scoring with a fade away, fall down three-point basket and was just getting started in the quarter. After a Depaolis jumper Sala hit again from distance to give Canajoharie a 6-2 lead.
Sala made two free throws and added two spinning layups later in the quarter to a cap a 12-point frame. Canajoharie turned the ball over just twice in the first quarter and only four times in the first 16 minutes.
The Cougars led 14-7 after one but Berlin’s offense woke up in the second. Depaolis splashed two threes and added a two-point jumper to headline a 20-point quarter for Berlin. The Cougars matched with 20 of their own, led by leading-scorer Josh Gonzalez. Morgan Chapman scooped in a layup near the halftime buzzer to give the Cougars a 34-27 advantage.
Sala finished a three-point-play early in the third to put Canajoharie up by 10, but Depaolis led a steady scoring attack that began to cut into Berlin’s deficit.
“We noticed that they had a 20-point quarter so our point of emphasis in the third quarter especially was getting defensive stops,” Schoff said. “We went pretty lax in our 2-3 matchup zone so we went man-to-man, and we started fouling and putting them at the line and that actually gave them momentum.”
Depaolis drilled two more three-pointers while skying in all directions to rip down ferocious rebounds. The junior finished with a game-high 20 points and 17 boards. Berlin hit four free throws in the frame after tallying just one in the previous two quarters combined.
Zach Folts helped Canajoharie keep pace the best he could. Folts got underneath for three layups and scored six of the Cougars’ 13 points in the quarter.
Jeff Curtis hit a three early in the fourth quarter to pull the Mountaineers within one, but timely buckets by Folts kept Berlin at bay for a good portion of the quarter.
Berlin tied the game three times late in the quarter, once after a technical foul on Schoff, but didn’t hold a lead the entire game. Dillan Veeder went five of six from the free throw line for the Cougars to reclaim the lead for good.
Several players had big games for Canajoharie. Logan Sala finished with 20 points while Veeder chipped in 11. Folts had 13 points and nine rebounds. Zach Ouderkirk had eight points and pulled down 11 boards, and Gonzalez had a double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds.
“That’s one of the things I’ve been waiting for, for almost 17 to 18 games now, is that full team effort,” Schoff said. “I think we’re starting to get there and as a coach it’s really nice seeing that we’re playing our better basketball team-wise down the stretch.”
Curtis, Cody Seel and John Schatz joined Depaolis scoring in double figures.
The Cougars await the winner of tonight’s matchup between top-seeded Hoosic Valley and 16th-seeded Whitehall.
Canajoharie (12-7 overall) fell to then-top-seeded Hoosic Valley 55-30 in the semifinals of last year’s tournament. Should the Cougars get a chance to avenge that loss, Schoff knows the approach his team will take.
“We have to be absolutely ready to play and we have to have our best game to beat them,” Schoff said. “I think the worst thing we can do is not respect them because if we don’t respect them it weakens us.”
The quarterfinal game will be at Hudson Valley Community College in Troy on Friday at 5 p.m.
Canajoharie 64, Berlin 61
Berlin7 20 16 18 – 61
Canajoharie14 20 13 17 – 64
Depaolis 6-5-21, Curtis 5-4-16, Schatz 6-0-12, Seel 3-3-10, Rojker 1-0-2. Totals 21-12-61.
Sala 7-3-20, Folts 6-1-13, Veeder 2-7-11, Gonzalez 3-4-10, Ouderkirk 4-0-8, Chapman 1-0-2. Totals 23-15-64.
3-point-goals: Berlin 7 (Depaolis 4, Curtis 2, Seel); Canajoharie 3 (Sala 3).