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Cougars defeat Fort Ann, advance in Sectional tourney

The 2013-14 North Warren Varsity Boys Basketball team includes: (front, left to right): Iain Underwood (white shirt), Dan Hill , Daren Granger, Nick Sapienza, Justice Parker, (rear): Colby May, Jacob Dunkley and Hayden Smith. (Not pictured): Josef Strauss, Dan Tennyson and Rob Wallace.

The 2013-14 North Warren Varsity Boys Basketball team includes: (front, left to right): Iain Underwood (white shirt), Dan Hill , Daren Granger, Nick Sapienza, Justice Parker, (rear): Colby May, Jacob Dunkley and Hayden Smith. (Not pictured): Josef Strauss, Dan Tennyson and Rob Wallace.

— In a dramatic comeback victory that mirrored their season’s campaign, the North Warren boys basketball team upset Fort Ann Saturday Feb. 22 in a key Sectional showdown.

Outscored 35 to 27 at halftime after Fort Ann’s trap defense frustrated their game play, North Warren struck back to upset the third-seeded Cardinals for a slim 60-58 victory in the Section II Class D tournament quarterfinals.

The win moves them forward in the regional tourney to face Argyle, reigning state champions, in a game scheduled for Wednesday Feb. 26 in the Glens Falls Civic Center.

In the first half in the Feb. 22 game, Fort Ann’s trap defense stymied North Warren, forcing a slew of turnovers.

At halftime, new Cougar coach Jeremy Whipple advised his players to stay calm, concentrate on taking better care of the ball, and to pass the ball to an open player when two opponents are swarming around.

“This is exactly what we expected,” he told his players, referring to a Dec. 13 game against Fort Ann, in which the Cardinals employed the same intense defensive strategy.

The Cougars heeded Whipple’s advice — and their hot shooting from a number of players — along with steely poise in the final minutes of play — gave them the victory.

This is the first time that North Warren, one of the smallest schools in the region, has been to the Sectional semifinals since 2007.

Their come-from-behind victory reflected their 2013-14 season, which began with losses by 15 to 25 points to teams they defeated in later matchups.

Determination made the difference for North Warren in Saturday’s game.

Fort Ann concentrated on keeping Cougar scoring leader Nick Sapienza away from the basket, but that didn’t stop him — he hit five three-pointers, scoring 15 points despite their tough defense.

Meanwhile, Cougar’s number-six player, Junior Colby May, stepped up and made some critical plays. Repeatedly driving to the basket, he scored 19 points for the game. Iain Underwood, a Senior who has recently emerged as an offensive threat, scored 17 points.

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