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High school basketball: Beavers’ state journey bringing back memories

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It’s been 34 long years since Beaver River boys basketball fans have been this abuzz about their beloved Beavers.

Not since the Bob Giordano-coached team of 1979 won the Section 3 Class B title and advanced to the state playoffs have Beaver fans felt this excited about the team’s prospects of making a state title bid. That year, a veteran Beaver River team came up short of making the state final four, losing to eventual state champion Sidney of Section 4 in the regionals.

This season, with another veteran-laden club, coach Lynn Petzoldt, a 1977 Beaver River graduate, takes his Beavers (21-1) into another confrontation with a Section 4 team with a shot at making the school’s first trip to Glens Falls.

Moravia (20-2), the Section 4 Class C champion, will provide the opposition Saturday in the state Class C quarterfinals at 11 a.m. at Onondaga Community College’s SRC Arena.

Petzoldt has tried to make this week seem just like any other during the season.

But he realizes that with what’s at stake, it’s hard not to get caught up in the enthusiasm.

“It’s kind of like a dream,’’ Petzoldt said. “To still have a chance at winning a state title is all you can ask for. But these kids haven’t allowed anything to bother them all season, and I don’t think it will start now.’’

The pressure of winning another game to make the final four won’t be any different than the pressure to win a Section 3 title after coming close last season.

“We’ve been hearing it all season, about how it will be disappointing if we don’t win the sectional title,’’ Beaver River scoring leader Samuel Widrick said after last Sunday’s 68-65 win over Mohawk in the Class C title game at the Carrier Dome. “The next game will be big, but no bigger than the last four. It’s a pretty loose team, and nothing seems to bother us.’’

Petzoldt said this club, which includes nine seniors, “never gets too high or low. Their whole demeanor is of being poised and able to handle the pressure.’’

The Beavers have so many offensive weapons, it makes them difficult to defend.

Widrick (16.9 points per game) and senior center Alex Hall (16.8 ppg) are the main go-to guys. But Petzoldt has also received key contributions seniors Tarren Farney (7.5 ppg), Zack Steiner (9.1 ppg), Trevor Lehman and Adam Schneider.

Hall has really improved on the low block, using his strength and agility not only to score, but to rebound and block shots.

While Widrick has made a team-leading 49 3-pointers, he has become more aggressive driving to the basket in recent games.

Farney, who has hit 38 3-pointers off the bench, and Steiner, with 23 3-pointers, make it impossible to double-team Widrick on the perimeter.

For Lehman, especially, the season has been a bonus. He tore the ACL in his knee the first football game of the season and was scheduled for surgery. But he came to Petzoldt and told him he wanted to play basketball because it was going to be a special season. So he postponed the operation.

“He’s not the same player, physically,’’ Petzoldt said. “But he’s still a valuable part of our rotation, and he has a knack for making big plays.’’

Asked after Beaver River beat Tully for the Class C-1 title if it was all worth it, Lehman smiled and said, “It’s been even more than I ever dreamed of.’’

As for Moravia, Petzoldt said, “People tell me they are a mirror-image of us. They like to press and play a lot of zone. At this point of the season, every team you play is really good, so execution is always the key.’’

The Beaver River fan base will also be out in force again. In fact, because Beaver River had such a large following Sunday at the Section 3 Class C championship at the Carrier Dome (an estimated crowd of 2,500), this week’s game was switched from Binghamton High School to SRC Arena, which holds 4,000 fans, to accommodate the expected throng.

After discussions with Section 4 earlier this week, it was decided that the gym and parking at Binghamton High School was insufficient to hold the Beaver River throng even though that section was to be the host site.

“It’s amazing the support we’ve received,’’ Petzoldt said. “Every where we’ve gone, our fans have come along. We wouldn’t be where we are without them.’’

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