SUNDAY. BINGHAMTON. BE THERE!
By LIBBY CUDMORE
COOPERSTOWN – With their victory over Utica Academy of Science Atoms on Sunday, March 3, Hawkeyes’ basketball team Captain Jack Lambert has his dad beat.
“My team won sectional championship in 1985 and ’86,” the elder Lambert said. “But now Jack has one more on me!”
The boys will play Section IV champions Unadilla Valley in the state Class C quarterfinals on Sunday, March 10, at the Broome County Memorial Arena. “We beat them in December 48-45,” he said. “It was a low-scoring, close game, so we think this will be another tough contest.”
In Sunday’s nail-biter, the Hawkeyes beat the Atoms 61-57, taking the lead in the fourth quarter after dogging at the Atoms’ heels.
“Those first two baskets threw us off,” said Coach Lambert. “I gathered the team around and said, ‘This is going to be a grind.’”
At halftime, the Utica Academy of Science was up 34-27 in Utica’s favor. By the end of the third quarter, it was 46-40. With four minutes left, Jack Lambert tied the score.
Then it rose to 50 points. 52. 57 for Cooperstown with 30 seconds remaining. With eight seconds on the clock, Utica brought the score to 57.
Then Jesse Furnari sank the final two baskets to bring the Cooperstown boys to 61 points and win their 11th Section III championship, their third in four years.
“I’ve got goosebumps,” said Jack. “My voice is weak from screaming like crazy.”
The younger Lambert credited the long drills his dad made him run with their endurance out on the court. “We knew we had it,” he said. “We knew we could come back with that energy.”
“And when you had a kid like Ryan Lansing, his energy is limitless,” said John.
Following the game, Ryan was named to the all-tournament team, while Jack was named Most Valuable Player.
And dad John, in his first-year as head coach, was named Coach of the Year. “I didn’t know they would announce it there,” he said. “When I heard my name, I couldn’t believe it. I was so flattered.”
But they weren’t the only ones returning to Cooperstown with a championship.
On Thursday, Feb. 28, the Lady Hawkeyes defeated the Little Falls Lady Mounties 54-45 to take home their own Section III championship title, their first since the 2015-16 season.
“It was really nip and tuck,” said coach Mike Niles. “We were up four points at halftime, but the second half was bucket for bucket.”
A 3-point shot by Emilie Perez energized the team and demoralized Little Falls. “I don’t think they scored again after that,” he said. “We had a really, really good finish.”
They will go up against their old nemesis Watkins Glen on Sunday, also at the arena. “They beat Unatego, who we lost to twice,” he said. “They’re physically tough; they won states in 2017, and their two top players are the last remnants of that team. It’s going to be a gut check.”
In 2015, the Lady Hawkeyes won the state championship over Watkins Glen 46-34.
But Niles has reservations about playing in the arena. “It’s a big dark cavernous room,” he said. “It can really mess with your depth perception.”
And Lambert said that while he gave the boys Monday off to recover, you don’t win the quarterfinals by resting on your laurels. “We’ll put in the work this week,” he said.
If the boys advance to and win states, it’ll be a first. “We’ve never won a state championship,” said John. “Wouldn’t that be something if we did!”