The last — and only time — Randolph reached a New York State Public High School Athletic Association final four, the Cardinals faced Section III champion Tully in the semifinals.
Midway through the first quarter of that game, one of Randolph’s top players, Nick Schobey, was injured underneath the east basket of the then-Glens Falls Civic Center.
Later, when head coach Kevin Hind asked Schobey if he was ready to re-enter the contest, the Cardinals senior gave his coach a confident “Yes,” but when he stood up to head to the scorer’s table, he collapsed.
Schobey never got back in the game, Randolph lost 46-33, and Schobey was later diagnosed with three broken ribs.
On Saturday, in Randolph’s first trip back to Glens Falls since 2004, Hind experienced an eerie moment of deja vu.
With 2:15 remaining in the first quarter of Randolph’s state semifinal against Section IV champion Moravia, the Cardinals’ Griffin Nelson picked up a steal and soared to the basket for a layup.
It would end up being Nelson’s only bucket of the game.
As the sophomore came down, his momentum carried him into the stanchion holding the basket over the court and his lower leg banged into the padded structure.
At the east end of the court.
In the first quarter.
At what is now called Cool Insuring Arena.
As he laid on the floor writhing in pain, Nelson told assistant coaches and a NYSPHSAA representative that he heard something snap.
Eventually, he was helped to the bench where his lower leg/ankle was wrapped. He never returned to the game.
Owen Nelson, a senior for the Cardinals and Griffin’s older brother, was clearly affected by the injury, got into foul trouble and was never really able to put his stamp on the game.
But Randolph persevered.
Jaiden Huntington was whistled for three early travels and the usually steady inside-outside presence for the Cardinals never really took over the game.
But Randolph persevered.
Senior Carson Conley and sophomore Drew Hind carried the scoring load for the Cardinals with 20 points apiece.
And while Roan Kelly, Tristan Farnham and Cooper Freeman were largely nonfactors at the offensive end of the floor, they were just as important to the Cardinals’ success as Conley and Hind.
Kelly was a key part of Randolph’s press break, made a layup early in the second half, and buried two clutch free throws late that helped put the game out of reach of the Blue Devils.
Farnham grabbed three rebounds, helped defensively and didn’t turn the ball over in his six minutes of action.
Freeman — a jayvee callup who didn’t see varsity minutes until late in the season and has yet to score his first varsity basket — played nine minutes, grabbed a rebound and picked up a key steal for the Cardinals.
Griffin Nelson sat at the end of the bench for the entire game and as the final buzzer sounded, his older brother was the first to find him for an emotional embrace. Drew Hind eventually ran to his father for a huge hug, and immediately found Griffin at the end of the bench to share a moment.
One by one, each member of the Cardinals embraced Griffin before making their way to the locker room in the bowels of Cool Insuring Arena.
Griffin Nelson won’t physically be on the court with his Cardinals teammates when they take on Section I champion Haldane in today’s 5:15 p.m. championship tilt back in “Hometown U.S.A.,” but each of his teammates will carry a piece of him onto the floor.
Coach Hind never got to see how his team would respond to losing a key player back in 2004.
He’ll get that opportunity today as the Cardinals play for the program’s first state title.
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