by Scott Kindberg
March 16, 2022
‘He Expected To Make It’
As a sportswriter, I don’t root for teams. I do, however, value a good story. There may not be a better one than that of Salamanca junior Andy Herrick. Twitter users seem to like the Warriors’ shooting guard, too, as one video of his game-winning 3-pointer in the Class C Far West Regional basketball game has been viewed nearly 3,700 times since last Saturday.
But his shot from the top of the key with just under 30 seconds remaining that propelled Salamanca into this weekend’s New York State Public High School Athletic Association Final Four wasn’t the most remarkable thing on that video.
What was, according to Warriors coach Adam Bennett, was Herrick’s reaction after the ball hit nothing but net.
Or maybe the lack of one. “He expected to make it,” Warriors coach Adam Bennett said, “so he got back on defense.” The emotions would have to wait a bit.
As Bennett and his victorious team took the bus ride home from Buffalo State Sports Arena after the Far West Regional win, Bennett reflected on all the hard work that Herrick had put into his game to become the best possible version of himself on the court.
“I just couldn’t help but think of all the shots he took over the summer and during COVID,” Bennett said. “He was out in his driveway. He and his dad really transformed his shot.”
So when Herrick took the skip pass from point guard Hayden Hoag, his feet were set and his eyes were focused on the rim. When he let the ball fly, there was little doubt among his teammates and coach where it would end up.
“If you look at the reaction of his teammates when he hit the shot … it’s as crazy as I’ve ever seen our bench,” Bennett said. “Obviously the moment has something to do with that. That shot … sent us to Glens Falls, but I think moreso it’s because Andy has the respect of literally everyone who knows him … and it has nothing to do with his situation.”
Ah, the “situation.” Herrick, 17, was born with cystic fibrosis, a genetic disorder that affects mostly the lungs. While there is no cure, he hasn’t let the disease define him, even though he endures 30-minute treatments morning and night, takes plenty of medication and has had to navigate through a pandemic.
He just plays.
“I don’t take him out,” Bennett said. “ … It just shows what people can do when they put their minds on something. That’s my favorite thing about him. If you didn’t know him, you wouldn’t know he has cystic fibrosis. That’s exactly the way he wants it and I’m so proud of that.”
Bennett is also proud of the rest of the players, who have done “everything they could to protect him” during COVID.
“I think it’s everything that’s good about sports,” he said. “Our whole team went out and got vaccinated as soon as it was available to us. … No questions asked. We can’t tell kids or families to do that, but that was the team getting together (because) they wanted to protect Andy.”
The friendship goes both ways. “He cares so much about his teammates that he wasn’t going to let something like COVID take away a year of his high school athletics,” Bennett said. “And, at the same time, his teammates cared so much about him that they were going to do everything in their power to be sure they could protect him from that.”
So with the Warriors in desperate need of a big hoop in the waning seconds of the Far West Regional, Herrick did everything in his power to make sure that the program’s finest season in school history would continue all the way to Cool Insuring Arena this weekend.
When Cole Hedlund deflected an Avon pass in the final seconds to finally secure Salamanca’s 61-59 Far West Regional victory, the celebration among Bennett’s team and staff began. Hugs were everywhere, including one between Herrick and his father, Greg, the Warriors’ varsity assistant, who supervised an untold number of jump shots in their driveway last summer.
And when combined with Herrick’s determination in dealing with his CF, along with the support he’s received from his teammates and his community, it was understandable why he buried his head in his dad’s shoulder for a lengthy embrace.
But unlike when he released the dramatic trey from the arc minutes before, Herrick was stoic no more. As stories go, they don’t get much better than that.