BUFFALO - The Jamestown Red Raiders came busting out of the blocks to start their Class AA Far West Regional basketball game on Saturday night.
Then Zack Panebianco took them to the finish line.
The junior guard poured in 34 points, including 22 in the second half, grabbed eight rebounds and added three steals to propel the Red Raiders to a 61-52 victory over Greece Athena of Section 5 at the Buffalo State Sports Arena.
Above, Jamestown’s Zack Panebianco drives to the basket against Greece Athena during Saturday night’s Class AA?Far West Regional game at Buffalo State College. Below, Quinn Lee Yaw of the Red Raiders is pressured by a Greece Athena defender. See additional photos at cu.post-journal.com.
P-J photos by Scott Kindberg
The Jamestown Red Raiders celebrate after their Class AA Far West Regional win over Greece Athena on Saturday night. See additional photos at cu.post-journal.com.
P-J photos by Scott Kindberg
The win vaults Jamestown (18-4) into the New York State Public High School Athletic Association final four in Glens Falls for the second time in four seasons where it will meet Union-Endicott of Section 4 in the semifinals at 12:30 p.m., Saturday at the Glens Falls Civic Center.
''It's really hard to put into words after such a big win,'' Red Raiders coach Ben Drake said. ''To be able to make the trip to Glens Falls obviously is every team's dream when you start the season.''
The young man who helped Jamestown's dream come true was Panebianco.
The 5-foot-10 junior has had his share of remarkable games at Buffalo State in the last three years, but he saved his best for Greece Athena (21-2), which had beaten the Red Raiders by 20 points at McElrath Gymnasium in their season opener in December.
All told, Panebianco shot 10-of-20 from the floor, including 4-of-6 from the arc; connected on all 10 of his free throws; and was a one-man wrecking crew after intermission when he scored 22 of Jamestown's 27 points and nailed all four of his treys. And, as is usually the case, he shined the brightest when the game was hanging in the balance.
Once leading 14-0 lead to the start the game (more on that later), 20-5 after the first quarter and a 34-22 at halftime, Jamestown saw its lead trimmed to as few as five points (36-31 with 5:20 remaining in the third quarter) and was still clinging to a 45-38 lead with inside a minute left in the period.
Jamestown's next three field goals were all courtesy of Panebianco treys. The first came with four seconds remaining in the third quarter and was followed by bombs from the wing a minute apart midway through the final period. The final one gave Jamestown a 54-42 lead with 4:41 remaining and some much-needed breathing room.
''The kid is unreal,'' Drake said. ''I can't say enough about him. I've coached some pretty good players over the years, but he's right up there with the best of the best. He's just ice. He lives for the big moment and lives for big games. Whenever we need a shot, we just need to get the ball in his hands, and he comes through. He's just unbelievable.''
The Red Raiders didn't score another field goal the rest of the game, but connected on 7-of-10 free throws down the stretch, including 4-of-4 from Panebianco, to close it out.
While Panebianco carried Jamestown in the latter stages, the Red Raiders used a team effort to jump out to a 14-0 lead in the first 4 minutes. During that run, the Red Raiders executed to perfection in the halfcourt. Panebianco and senior Quinn Lee Yaw each had six points, while junior Stephen Carlson added two. Greece Athena senior Deion Hamilton finally hit a 3-pointer to get the Trojans on the board and sophomore Anthony Lamb scored on a putback to close the gap to 14-5. But Jamestown finished on a 6-0 run, courtesy of a bucket from Lee Yaw and a pair of layups from Carlson.
''The start we got off to was unbelievable,'' Drake said. ''We had talked about the importance of executing our offense early in the game. We had to relax on offense and make the right plays, and on defense crash the boards. We did that right from the beginning. The kids did a really, really good job of executing all night long.''
Armed with a 20-5 lead, the Red Raiders were in control. Their lead, in fact, grew to as many as 20 points, 29-9, following a tip-in by senior Josh Colwell with just under five minutes remaining in the second quarter, but Greece Athena finished the half on a 13-5 run, trimming Jamestown's lead to 34-22.
But Panebianco wasn't about to let the Red Raiders lose out on a chance to make a trip to Glens Falls, scoring 12 points in the third quarter and 10 more in the fourth.
''We're sick of being close,'' he said. ''We want to be the best, and that's exactly what we're going for. We're not satisfied yet. We'll study up on whoever we play. Underdog or not, we like each position and we like how we're playing right now.''
Drake likes everything about his team.
''It's unbelievable we get to make this trip and we get to play against the best New York state has to offer,'' he said. ''(Then again), we're one of the best New York state has to offer.''
NOTES: Lee Yaw finished with 10 points and nine rebounds; Carlson had seven points and eight boards; and sophomore Zacc Kinsey had five assists and two steals. ... Lamb led the Trojans with 19 points, Hamilton had 13 and Zac DiSalvo added 11. ... Greece Athena's only other loss was against Olean (87-71), which advanced to the Class B final four by virtue of its regional win over Charlotte earlier in the day.
GREECE ATHENA (52)
Lamb 7 5 19, Hamilton 5 2 13, Sarkis 1 0 3, DiSalvo 4 1 11, Florin 1 3 5, Wind 0 0 0, Gaines 0 1 1, Totals 18 12 52.
Kinsey 0 2 2, Panebianco 10 10 34, Larson 1 1 4, Carlson 3 1 7, Lee Yaw 5 0 10, Colwell 2 0 4, Park 0 0 0, Totals 21 14 61.
3-point goals-Hamilton, Sarkis, DiSalvo 2, Panebianco 4, Larson.
Greece Athena5 17 16 14 - 52
Jamestown20 14 14 13 - 61