Elmont's Osagie Ekhator works underneath in a New York State Class...

Elmont's Osagie Ekhator works underneath in a New York State Class AA boys basketball semifinal against Jamestown at Cool Insuring Arena in Glens Falls, New York, on Friday. Credit: Patrick E. McCarthy

GLENS FALLS — The adage “defense wins championships” can hardly be proven as fact.

But the Elmont boys basketball team is showing why it may be true.

The Spartans put on a defensive clinic Friday afternoon against Jamestown in the state Class AA semifinals, setting up a pressure defense that fell into a two-three zone. Jamestown made just nine shots in the final three quarters and scored seven points in the second, nine in the third and eight in the fourth.

Elmont held Jamestown scoreless for five consecutive minutes in the fourth quarter to grab control in a 52-38 win at Cool Insuring Arena.

“Part of our identity all year has been changing defenses, and that’s what makes our team so special,” Elmont coach Ryan Straub said. “They’re versatile. They have great speed, length. No matter what’s best for the team, they always do it.”

Cassius Moore scored 17 points, Osagie Ekhator had 10 points and 12 rebounds and Ebubenna Nwabudu had nine points and 11 rebounds for Elmont (22-4).

The Spartans will play Section III champion West Genesee (Camillus) for the state title on Saturday at 7 p.m.

“We stayed together, even though they started off hot,” Moore said. “We stayed together, played with energy and just picked it up and protected the paint.”

Jamestown (21-5) led 14-7 after the first quarter before Elmont tied it at 21 by halftime. Elmont solidified a clear advantage inside. It outrebounded Jamestown 43-29 and grabbed 21 offensive rebounds.

Said Ekhator: “Ever since we watched the first scout on film, our coaches were telling us, ‘You just have to play hard. You got to get inside. This game is not a game we’re gonna win shooting threes, making threes.’”

Elmont led 31-30 going into the fourth quarter and led for the final 10:05. Ekhator and Nwabudu both had layups, Moore hit a corner three and Khalil Muhammad made two two-pointers on an 11-0 run to give Elmont a 44-32 lead with 3:29 left.

Straub, Elmont’s fourth-year head coach, started on its staff as a varsity and junior varsity assistant in 2016, the only time it won the state title. Both Straub and assistant coach Travis Robinson-Morgan, Elmont’s point guard in 2016, speak about that year “ a ton” as it relates to this year’s opportunity.

They are just one win away from replicating that success.

“COVID year (the 2021-22 season) we went 5-14, nobody believed in us, nobody thought we could do anything,” Ekhator said. “Last year, we went to the (county) semifinals, and this year we put it all together and we’re winning the state chip.”


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