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NEWBURGH, NY — With 22 seconds left on the clock, it all came down to the free throw line.
In the closing five seconds, Roscoe’s Erick “B” Hill proved to be the man of the hour as he stepped up to the stripe with Manor ahead by a single point (44-43). It was all over in the NYSPHSAA’s Section IX Boys Basketball Class D Championship battle between the Blue Devils of Roscoe and the Livingston Manor Wildcats on Friday, March 1 at Mount Saint Mary College.
“These guys put basketball back on the map for us...They’ll be back next year.” — Coach Adam Larson
Talk about courage under fire, with the poise to withstand a lot of pressure.
With the outcome of the title at stake, Hill netted the first of his 2-for-2. In the wake of swishing his second, the Blue Devils squeaked past Manor 45-44 in a game that was, by all standards, a real down-to-the wire nail-biter.
After Hill, a senior and two-year starting guard, stepped up to the stripe, the fiercely contested battle between the rivals was over.
Just like “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” it was over in less than a second.
Roscoe leaped out to an 8-0 lead in the first couple of minutes, and wrapped up the first frame ahead 14-7.
In the second period, Manor’s Peter Pagan’s 3-pointer shaved the Blue Devils halftime lead to 19-18.
Roscoe surged back aggressively in third frame as they outpaced the Wildcats 18-9.
But, in the final period, spurred by shouts of “defense, defense” from the stands, Manor almost took the game, out gunning Roscoe 17-8.
In the last minute of the game, Juniper Brown sunk one from the free throw line to give the Wildcats their one-and-only advantage in the contest (44-43).
But alas, Manor’s lead couldn’t stand the test of time and Hill’s percentage of success at the free throw line (7-of-9 for the game and 2-of-2 when it came down to the wire).
Roscoe’s leading scorers: Parker Rosencranse (16 points including a 3-pointer), Nikolas Breihof (12 points including a 3-pointer) and Erick “B” Hill (11 points, and 4-of-5 at the stripe in the fourth frame).
Manor: Jarrett Simpson (14 points including four 3-pointers) and Peter Pagan (10 points including two 3-pointers).
Stats from the free throw line: Roscoe 11/15 (73%), Manor 2/9 (22%).
For Fred Ahart, illustrious coach and athletic director at the Home of the Blue Devils, this year marks his Golden Anniversary in the game of hoops, and the victory was sweet indeed, as Roscoe picked up its first sectional title since 1998.
The third consecutive trip to the finals proved to be the charm for Roscoe (15-7, 4-2). Last year, they fell to Manor 41-31, and, in 2017, were defeated 78-68 by the Spartans of S.S. Seward.
Always a class act, when asked about the game, Ahart praised his opponents, “Credit to Livingston Manor for making that comeback.”
At Roscoe, practicing foul shot after foul shot rules the day.
“Every day in practice we say ‘free throws in close games will decide the game.’ Erick stepped up and made those two free throws,” said Ahart.
Mike Hill serves as assistant coach on Roscoe’s boys varsity squad of hoopsters. Asked what it was like to watch his son put the icing on the cake, he replied, “It didn’t register to me at the time. He was able to knock this down in that pressure situation.”
Erick “B” Hill’s take on the razor slim victory? “We just had to come out, execute and make it happen,” he said.
Like most area high schools, Roscoe’s Fred “Coach” Ahart Gymnasium has legions of banners hung from the rafters, extolling the triumphs of their student athletes.
And like most competitors, Hill yearned to add his team’s name to that list. “I always wanted to get up on that banner as a kid.”
Adam Larson, coach of the Wildcats (14-5, undefeated 6-0 in division) was close to tears after the heart-breaking loss. “Roscoe did a great job changing up their defense,” he said. “In the fourth period we were down 10 to start, slowly digging ourselves out of the hole we got into. The shots started falling, but the name of the game is making those free throws.”
Reflecting upon the success of this year’s team, Larson said, “These guys put basketball back on the map for us. Peter Pagan and Jarret Simpson can shoot the lights out, and Peter is a heck of a defensive player. They’ll be back next year.”