Albany Times Union

Panthers advance to first state playoffs

- By James Allen

COHOES — Sporting a full beard as a high school athlete suggests a certain maturity level and perhaps even a bit of bravado. Chatham senior center Jacob Baccaro, who stands 6foot-4, had no qualms about making sure his team’s incredible season of success continued Sunday afternoon.

As the Panthers tried to close things out in the final two minutes against Duanesburg while contending with massive foul trouble, Baccaro calmly hoisted up a step-back 3-pointer — with remarkable cold-blooded intentions — and drained his second attempt from beyond the three-point arc with 1:22 remaining.

“Look, he struggled with 3s earlier in the year. He didn’t have any through eight games this year,” Chatham coach J.B. Brantley said. “Then it became a situation where he was stretching the floor. In the post, he is a threat inside. We have reaped the benefits of him making those outside shots.”

“I felt like that’s the game right there,” Baccaro said. “It was huge for us. That really sealed the deal for us.”

Baccaro was correct as Chatham, a squad that required a buzzer-beating 3-pointer Friday to capture the program’s first sectional title in the Class CC championsh­ip game against Stillwater, handed the Eagles their first loss to advance to the state playoffs with a 61-49 victory in the CC/C playoff at Cohoes High School.

“This is the first time in school history we have done anything like this,” Chatham senior guard Matt Thorsen said. “We have always wanted to go to the state tournament. We were able to pull through.”

What is the reward for beating the state’s No. 1 team Sunday and handing that squad its first loss of the season? The Panthers (20-4) next take a trip Wednesday to Clinton Community College to take on Section VII champion Moriah (22-0), the state’s No. 2 squad, in state re

gional play.

“I can’t even describe this. It is crazy,” said Baccaro, who had 17 points in the win Sunday. “We have never really been here, so it is awesome for us.”

Friday at Cool Insuring Arena, the Panthers trailed Stillwater 56-55 in the final seconds. Following a timeout, Anthony O’dell received a pass on the wing and buried a 3-pointer to provide Chatham a stunning victory. Sunday, the team from the Patroon Conference methodical­ly picked apart a squad from Duanesburg (24-1) that was the area’s best defensive squad this season.

“They are probably the best defensive team we have played all year,” Baccaro said.

Duanesburg coach Brett Simpson, who guided his squad to its first sectional title Friday with a 58-49 win against Hoosic Valley, could not say enough good things about Chatham’s performanc­e.

“We executed to perfection on Friday. You can’t play a perfect game, but we were close to perfect against Hoosic Valley as we could be,” Simpson said. “Chatham did what we did Friday against us. They just were the better team.”

How the Panthers were able to get what they wanted offensivel­y, whether they were facing man-toman defense or the Eagles’ 1-3-1 zone, was driving to the rim. Chatham’s passing in the paint proved impeccable, and it included some exception bounce passes to Baccaro.

“It is something we work on every day in practice. We have a lot of people who can attack,” said Thorsen, the Class CC tournament Most Valuable Player who fought through foul trouble to score 14 points. “Basically, our offense is a lot of dribbledri­ve penetratio­n. If it is not there, we kick it out to our shooters.”

“We knew on reversals, we had to attack the gaps,” Brantley said. “Obviously, depending on rotations, the holes would be there. We wanted to pump-fake and dribble-penetrate.”

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