Undefeated Hamilton High School Boys’ Basketball Team Riding High Entering Playoffs

Sloan Martin, Staff Writer

Hamilton High School’s electric boys’ basketball team capitalized their perfect 20-0 season this past Friday, Feb. 14, with a 72-43 statement win over Oriskany High School. They will be entering the Class D Section III one-and-done playoff bracket as the number one overall seed, and dedicated head coach Tom Blackford believes their success can continue into the playoffs.

“The hope is to go as far as we can,” Blackford said. “Our team has an old-school chemistry that not many have nowadays.”

Blackford has been coaching varsity basketball in New York for over 40 years, a feat he attributes to both his love for the game and his love for his players. When Blackford returned to Hamilton years ago after a stint at Fayetteville-Manlius, he made a promise to his seventh graders that he would see them graduate before considering stepping away from coaching. And now – with six of those seventh graders as seniors on the basketball team – Blackford has kept his promise and achieved a 20-0 record. 

Blackford has many long-standing fond memories across his coaching career. Most notably, winning two state championships in 1994 and 2000, and coaching center Adonal Foyle, who went to Hamilton High School and Colgate University before being drafted into the National Basketball Association (NBA).

What separates this special, undefeated 2021-2022 season from those prior? According to Blackford, it starts with a changed philosophy for the offense.

“I have been involved with a lot of boys basketball, and the team this year is simply outstanding. Our guys are so unselfish and pass the ball so well. Guys are willing to run the floor and get open, which allows for so many easy baskets.”

As coach described, the Emerald Knights have prioritized the “easy baskets” by hustling to score layups off the transition offense. The team averages 79.3 points per game (PPG), which is truly an outstanding mark for their 32-minute high school games. Moreover, across all 11 Sections in Class D (around 100 schools), the Knights are number one in two-point made field goals and assists, among other categories. 

Hamilton players Tom Simpson (19.6 PPG), Zach LaFrance (14.6 PPG), Sami Cigeroglu (13.8 PPG) and Hudson Idzi (12.2 PPG) together have led the scoring for the Emerald all season and look to continue their success into the postseason. 

“We are a big, athletic team with all the positions covered. With four guys averaging double digit points, we are extremely hard to guard,” said Blackford. 

The Knights have also been tremendous defensively, running an aggressive 1-3-1 zone that no other team in their conference plays. Blackford credits the unique look and his players’ relentless hustle as the recipe for their defensive success all season. Among Class D, they are top-ranked in steals, rebounds, and blocks, holding opponents to just 41 PPG. 

If you have been following, you’ll realize that means the boys have an average margin of victory of almost 40 points. Truly, the Hamilton boys have been putting up video game numbers in real life games. 

The Emerald Knights have successfully run the table, bringing huge excitement to Hamilton High School. With the regular season finished, Hamilton will cherish this amazing achievement and is hopeful about the future. The team already secured their first playoff win with a dominant, marveling 85-14 victory over McGraw High School, and can secure Section III Class D with three more victories. After that, the Emerald hopes to compete against the other Section victors. Their ultimate goal: reach the Class D state finals. 

Blackford and the Emerald Knights will put their undefeated season on the line on Feb. 22 at home against Oriskany High School. The team controls their own destiny, with all of their remaining playoff games to be played in their home gym. If there was ever a time to win the whole thing, that time is now.

Assuming the Knights progress, the semi-finals will take place on Feb. 26 at 12:45 PM at the SRC Arena at Onondaga Community College, and the finals will take place on March 6 at 11:00AM at the same location. If Hamilton wins Section III Class D, they then have a chance to compete against the other section victors from New York Class D in a bracket format.