By Scott Kindberg
The dining room table in Ben Drake's northside home was covered with papers, a couple DVDs and a laptop computer Friday afternoon.
The Jamestown Red Raiders celebrate after winning their fourth Section 6 Class AA boys basketball championship in five years.
Photo by Anthony Scott
About the only thing not on it was a place for the Jamestown High School boys basketball coach to take a nap.
"I start getting that Jeff VanGundy look a little bit,'' Drake said of the former NBA coach. "With his lack of sleep, his eyes would get a little sunken and he started to look a little pale. He always used to say at the end of the season his wife would tell him how awful he looked.
"You just get by on adrenaline, I think. When you get to this point, you certainly don't want to leave any stone unturned.''
It must be time for another run at a New York State Public High State Public High School Athletic Association Class AA final four berth for the Red Raiders, the state's 14th-ranked school. They'll get that chance tonight when they meet No. 6 Greece Athena of Section 5 (21-1) in the Class AA Far West Regional at the Buffalo State Sports Arena. Tipoff is 8:15 p.m.
"They are going to be experienced, veteran teams playing each other (tonight) with obviously a lot at stake and being able to represent the Far West Region and go to Glens Falls,'' said Drake, who is 279-83 in 16 seasons. "I think it will be a great game.
"I feel if we play (tonight) like we did last Saturday night (in the Section 6 title game against Clarence), I think we'll be in great shape and I think we'll have a great chance to knock them off."
It's a far different Jamestown team than the one which lost its season opener to the Trojans, 74-54, at McElrath Gymnasium on Dec. 13. In that game, Deion Hamilton, a 6-foot-4 guard, and 6-1 point guard Jay Sarkis scored 23 and 19 points respectively as Greece Athena pulled away in the fourth quarter for the win.
It's been a magical season for coach Jim Johnson, whose lone loss came against Olean, 87-71, on Jan. 3. The Trojans earned their way into tonight's state quarterfinal by knocking off Fairport in the Section 5 title game, 72-60. Hamilton was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player after pouring in 29 points.
"We had a lot of high expectations this year,'' Johnson told the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle. "The theme was next step, not only win sectionals, but go into the state tournament, get to Glens Falls.
"I'm really excited. Everyone expected us to be good. A target was on our back and we had some tough games in the sectional tournament, which showed the character of our team. We're really excited to get into the state tournament."
While Jamestown will be focusing attention on Hamilton, Sarkis and company, Greece Athena will have to find an answer for Jamestown senior forward Quinn Lee Yaw (16 ppg, 9.5 rpg) and junior guard Zack Panebianco (18.1 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 4.0 apg and 1.7 spg). Both are coming off outstanding sectional tournaments, highlighted by Lee Yaw's 26-point, 15-rebound performance against Clarence in the title game.
"The whole team realizes that those two guys need the ball in their hands,'' Drake said. "It's a great one-two punch to be able to have a point guard you trust, and know he's going to make good decisions and is also going to make big plays and big shots.
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"To have a post player like Quinn to be able to complement (Panebianco) it's difficult for teams to be able to stop both of those guys."
The rest of Jamestown's starting five are junior forwards Stephen Carlson (8.7 ppg, 5.8 rpg) and Ben Larson (3.2 ppg and 3.1 rpg), and sophomore guard Zacc Kinsey (4.4 ppg, 3.2 rpg and 2.3 apg and 1.2 spg).
Seniors Josh Colwell, Brian Park and Matt Hoaglund are the first three players off the bench, and have provided Drake with quality minutes.
"Different guys have really come on in different areas,'' he said.
Kinsey might be the one who has blossomed as much as anyone.
"Considering out of the three huge wins we've had the last month - at Rochester East, Williamsville North at home and Clarence in the sectional championship - and if you'd told me in all three games Zacc Kinsey was guarding their best player I probably would have told you we would have been in trouble. He has exceeded my expectations."
Speaking of expectations, they remain high for Drake entering tonight's regional, which will be Jamestown's third game at Buffalo State in less than two weeks and its fourth state quarterfinal appearance in the last five years.
"So much when you go into big games like this with a regional championship on the line is having confidence to know that you can get it done,'' he said.