This preview was posted as part of a full Section V Boys Basketball tournament preview, which can be found here.
The defending Oakfield-Alabama Hornets Division champion enters the playoffs at 19-1 and with a head full of steam after back-to-back wins by more than 20 points following a loss to D1 class titan Wheatland-Chile. The Hornets are looking for the top seed and class C2 leader Lyon Lions, who are also 19-1 for the sectional tournament.
The Lions’ lone loss came at the hands of the No. 1 D1 class, the Avoca/Prattsburgh Vikings (20-0), 82-79, on Feb. 9. Aside from Lyon’s loss to the Vikings, the ‘C2’ top dog has been through his regular season schedule, facing just three tough clashes – an eight-point victory over Pal-Mac on January 4, a victory in two points over Gananda on February 11 and a two-point victory over Palma on February 17.
Although the Lions haven’t been tested too often, their tendency to blow up teams has forced many to take notice of what they have achieved this season. Lyon are averaging 81 points per game and allowing just 46 points per game. The Lions have topped the 90-point mark eight times and scored 100-plus points in a game twice this season, including two 60-plus wins over the Sodus Spartans (7-10), 101-38 in December 9 and 102-32 on January 26.
In short, the Lions are a wagon, and it will take a Herculean effort to slow them down over the next few weeks.
That said, the Hornets are equipped with a talented roster filled with athletes who have already proven themselves in the league on the big stage. Head coach Ryan Stehlar expects that experience to count for something as seniors Kam and Kaden Cusmano, along with Gaige Armbrewster, helped guide the Stehlar Hornets to great heights a year after the first championship of the program for several decades. Kam leads the team averaging 18 points per game to go with his eight rebounds per contest, while Armbrewster has added 15 points and grabbed eight boards per contest.
Two teams to watch from the Oakfield-Alabama side are League foes from the Genesee area, No. 3 seed Pembroke Dragons (14-6) and No. 6 seed Holley Hawks (10- 10), which should meet. in the quarter-finals on February 25. Holley will face the No. 11 seed, the Pavilion Golden Gophers (2-18), in the first round on Tuesday.
Both Holley and Pembroke have the ability to score the ball in clusters. The Hawks are powered by senior Broek Ostrom, who recently recorded a new Holley single-game record 51 points in a win over Alexander earlier this week and has 40-plus points in a game four times this season. . Pembroke junior Cayden Pfalzer and second Tyson Totten each average more than 20 points per game. The Dragons are stable as they come in and have enjoyed great success in recent seasons under head coach Matt Shay, while Holley is looking to cap off his most successful season since taking over. Head Coach Wil Prince took over the program six years ago. If Holley were to defeat Pavilion in the first round, it would be the Hawks’ first section victory under Prince.
Prediction: That said, expect this one to come down to the Hornets and Lions. The top two teams in the class will almost surely face off for the title on March 4. In the end, I think the Lions will prove too much for OA, ousting the defending champions by a slim margin in the title game.
The Hornets have been impressive this season, but their reluctance to challenge themselves outside of their league schedule could prove costly when they face some of the toughest teams the C2 class has to offer. In addition to Genesee Region League teams, OA faced non-league opponents Letchworth, Pavilion, and Albion (Sec. VI), all teams that finished the regular season under .500.