By Matthew Wakefield
The Sherman Wildcats didn't shoot the ball very well in the first half of their Section 6 Class D semifinal Wednesday night, yet they still found themselves up by 13 points.
Sherman’s Andrew Graham eyes the rim during Wednesday’s Section 6 Class D semifinal win over Ellicottville. See additional photos at cu.post-journal.com.
by Lisa Monacelli
That's because their offensive struggles didn't carry over to the other end of the court, where their defense held Ellicottville to just three points and zero field goals over the opening 16 minutes.
Armed with a 16-3 halftime lead, the top-seeded Wildcats found their shooting touch in the second half while maintaining their defensive pressure, and they rolled to a 55-22 victory over the fourth-seeded Eagles at Jamestown Community College.
''We just couldn't buy a shot tonight,'' Sherman coach Cory Emory said. ''I don't know why. Normally we shoot very well, but we didn't tonight. Luckily our defense stayed the same. We still played good, solid defense.
''It's nice when you can say we didn't play very well and still won by 30-something.''
Sherman (19-1) shot just 6-for-32 from the field over the opening two quarters, including 3-for-15 from 3-point range. But Andrew Graham hit three 3-pointers en route to 10 first-half points, which was more than enough to give the Wildcats a solid lead.
Ellicottville (11-9) often struggled to get a shot off on its offensive end, taking just 12 first-half field goals while turning the ball over 20 times.
''Their defensive pressure in the first half was really giving us fits,'' Ellicottville coach Dave McCann said. ''We didn't have a field goal, just the three free throws, and anytime you do that it's going to be tough to win. We held them to 16 points in the first half. Normally I would have thought that would be good enough to be in the game, but we just couldn't handle their pressure whatsoever.''
The Wildcats advance to the sectional final, to be played at 5:30 p.m., Friday at JCC. There they will meet third-seeded Panama, 67-59 winners over second-seeded Forestville in Wednesday's other semifinal.
Emory would like to see his team shoot better in that championship game, and the Wildcats did start to turn things around in the second half against Ellicottville, shooting 15-for-36 from the field and 5-for-14 from behind the arc.
Graham led the way, finishing with seven 3-pointers and a game-high 24 points two more than the Eagles had as a team.
''He held it together tonight,'' Emory said of his senior guard. ''Usually we have multiple guys who can hit them, but tonight he was kind of flying solo and he did a great job of holding it together.''
The Eagles finally got their first field goal 90 seconds into the second half, but Ryan Robson scored five points during an 11-5 Sherman run that put it on top, 32-18, in the final minute of the third quarter and the fourth quarter became a mere formality.
Ellicottville finished the game with 34 turnovers and shot just 6-for-30 from the field.
''They were all over us,'' McCann said of Sherman's defense. ''Anytime we had open space it wasn't open for very long.''
Robson finished with nine points, eight rebounds, four assists and four steals for Sherman, while Devin Moorhead had four points, six assists and three steals and Jake Card had six points and 10 rebounds.
Phalla Musall and Cameron Wilson Ellicottville's leading scorers this year were limited to nine and five points, respectively, well below their season averages.
''We knew they had two guys who wanted to score so we kind of keyed on those guys,'' Emory said.
Now the Wildcats will face Panama for the third time this season. Sherman won both of the previous meetings, beating the Panthers 76-60 in a December matchup and 53-28 a month ago.
''The first game was a great, fun, close game,'' Emory said. ''The second one kind of got away from them. But I expect on Friday that they are going to give us a good run.''
Musall 2 3 9, Wilson 1 3 5, Paprocki 0 0 0, Gregory 2 1 5, Delity 0 0 0, Lapi 0 0 0, Watt 1 0 2, Easton 0 1 1, Alzate 0 0 0, Tomblin 0 0 0, Bower 0 0 0, Totals 6 8 22.
Graham 8 1 24, Robson 4 1 9, Moorhead 2 0 4, Card 3 0 6, Myers 0 0 0, Ottaway 1 0 2, Boland 1 0 2, Cole 0 0 0, Walczak 2 1 6, Gleason 0 0 0, Reed 0 0 0, Lyon 0 0 0, Ames 0 2 2, Alger 0 0 0, Finch 0 0 0, Totals 21 5 55.
3-point goals: Graham 7, Musall 2, Walczak.
Ellicottville 2 1 13 6 22
Sherman 8 8 16 23 - 55