By LIBBY CUDMORE
Growing up, John Lambert always had a ball in his hand.
“My dad, Paul Lambert, coached Cooperstown basketball, 1958-64,” he said. “And I want to do the same thing for my son.”
The CCS Redskins are now the Hawkeyes, but some things stay the same.
Like his father, John Lambert is coaching the CCS team.
And like HIS father, senior Jack Lambert is this year’s team captain and a guard, leading the Hawkeyes to the Section III championships by crushing the Weedsport Warriors, 59-34, Saturday, Feb. 23, at Onondaga Community College in Syracuse.
This weekend, they’ll be back in Syracuse at 1:45 p.m. Sunday, taking on the Utica Academy of Science at the Carrier Dome for a chance at the Final Four and a state championship.
It’s not Jack’s first time at sectionals. The Hawkeyes have been in the playoffs since he was a freshman. “This is our fourth straight sectional final,” he said. “And we’ll take care of whatever comes up.”
And his father is feeling some déjà vu. “We went to the Final Four in 1985 and in ‘86, but we didn’t win,” he said.
Lambert, who is also a county judge, took the coaching job after former coach Dave Bertram became athletic director. “The timing was great,” he said.
But dad John hadn’t coached his son – and his teammates – since elementary school. “I would take them to Oneonta for tee-ball, then Little League, bitty basketball and pee-wee football,” he said. “I just got them back this year.”
It’s that familiarity, he said, that makes his team such a formidable force.
“There’s so much leadership on this team,” said son Jack. “With eight seniors, we have learned to be calm under pressure. We’re one unit out there, and so much of that is what my dad preaches.”
He joked that his dad was “harder” on him than the other players, but said that the two of them practiced a lot at home.
“We’ll do drills,” John said. “I play defense all the time, I push and I shove – they’re strength drills, so when everyone’s fatigued at the end of the game, you can still perform. And it keeps me in shape.”
But strength can only get you so far. “You have to trust your boys,” said John. “They just all fit together, and no one’s trying to play hero ball. That’s different than teams I’ve played in the past.”
“They’re really clicking,” said Bertram after Saturday’s game. “Jack had a solid game, and Ryan Lansing really had some spark in the second half.”
In the third quarter, John Kennedy, the 6-foot-8 sophomore, retrieved a ball that had bounced off the backboard and, without even taking his feet off the ground, put the ball in the basket.
“Wait until I teach him to jump,” said the coach.
But basketball is still a game, and John makes sure that while the boys are playing hard, they’re still enjoying themselves.
“Our team likes to play together,” said Jack. “We all have a good time out there. It’s fun first.”
And the Hawkeyes weren’t the only team to take home a victory. The Lady Hawkeyes also defeated Weedsport, 60-63, to also advance to the Class C Section III semi-finals. “It’s a great season so far, and it’s not done yet,” said Bertram.
John went on to play basketball at Union College for a year before transferring to Hartwick College, where he played golf. Jack is still waiting to hear from several schools, but said he does intend to play basketball in college.
““We don’t just talk basketball,” said the son. “We play golf in the summer. He still beats me…for now.”