BINGHAMTON — Brian Ramarge knew the name well before most New York basketball junkies.
It was 2012 and the Olean 10-year-old was getting ready to compete in the state championship of the Elks National Hoop Shoot. The boy to beat in his age division of the free-throw contest was an 11-year-old from Glens Falls: Joseph Girard III.
Even before he became the leading scorer in state history and a Syracuse commit, “JG3” was a player to fear.
“I just remember his stats,” Ramarge said. “He was going like 24 out of 25, 25 out of 25, and my best had only ever been 21 out of 25. But my dad and I put up hundreds and hundreds of free throws every single night preparing.
“And when I got there, it was intimidating watching him prepare … the routines he did, the form shots that he’d take.”
But in the competition, Ramarge went to the stripe first, making 24-of-25. Girard, after missing his first attempt, knocked down 24 straight to force a playoff.
Girard won the state title by one shot in the sudden-death shootout.
Ramarge remembers the tears.
“It was just such a terrible feeling coming up short,” he said.
Now, he just doesn’t want to lose to Girard again. The seniors will meet again when their high schools battle in the Class B state semifinals Friday at Floyd L. Maines Veterans Memorial Arena.
“It was always in the back of my mind that maybe we’d play again someday,” said Ramarge, a 5-foot-8 guard who’s Olean’s third-leading scorer at nine points per game. He’s shooting 79 percent (15-of-19) at the foul line.
“When we won our Far West Regional game the other day, I was really hoping that he was going to play because I want to play him again. And I want to beat him this time.”
Ramarge and Girard developed somewhat of a friendship while competing in the free-throw contest. In 2013, they returned to the Elks National Hoop Shoot, winning state championships in different age divisions.
“We got to move on to Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania,” for regionals, Ramarge said. “We would have dinner with our families, we played pool and darts one night at the hotel we were staying in, and we got to know each other’s families very well. I just always knew that he had that passion for basketball, and that’s obviously why he’s such a great player.”
The two stayed in touch for a few years, texting back and forth, but eventually lost touch.
“But I know for a fact that he’d remember me, and I obviously remember him,” Ramarge said. “Maybe we’ll have an exchange before the game, who knows?”
Once the ball is tipped, Olean’s focus will be on slowing the 50-points-per-game scorer.
“He’ll shoot from anywhere. But we have a good game plan for him,” Ramarge said. “We know he has the ball most of the game and we know he takes 50 shots, so we’re OK with him making some tough ones but we’re not going to make it easy for him at all.”
And if one team is fouling late, you know who the other will be trying to get the ball to for free throws to ice the game.
“That’ll be something,” Ramarge said.