When Stillwater got hot, Mechanicville kept its cool, and avoided a major Section II tournament upset at the hands of its longtime rival Friday night at Hudson Valley Community College.
Pat Marra sank six of eight free throws in the final minute and nearly recorded a triple-double as the Red Raiders edged the Warriors,
64-61, in a Class CC quarterfinal game that had mismatch written all over it, but ended up being a thriller.
“Yesterday, we shot 60 foul shots in practice because we thought it might end up being a close game,” said Marra, a senior forward who put Mechanicville ahead for good and later sealed the outcome with four clutch free throws. “Give them credit for making it close. They shot the lights out.”
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Mechanicville came into the first playoff meeting between the teams since 1986 with a No. 3 seed and 15-5 record, which included an early-season 60-31 victory over the Warriors. Stillwater came in with a No. 11 seed and a 4-17 mark, and had lost 10 straight games before upsetting Lake George in a first-round matchup.
“I reminded my kids that 28 years ago today, the U.S. had that miracle in Lake Placid,” said Stillwater coach Dave Cook. “Our kids bought into that. It didn’t matter if no one in the stands thought we could win. The kids did, and that’s what mattered.”
Stillwater trailed early in the third quarter, 38-25, and began to whittle away behind the offensive heroics of Justin Deuel, Henry
Evans and Nick D’Alberto. Evans’ putback pulled Stillwater even at 56-56 with 1:52 to play, and D’Alberto’s layup made it 58-58 with 1:30 to go.
“In the fourth quarter, we were losing it, but we didn’t break. We never gave up the lead,” said Mechanicville’s Joe Loudis, after his 417th career win, which is tops among Section II’s active coaches. “We kept playing. We played to win, where last year, we played not to lose.”
Marra’s two free throws with one minute left broke the tie, and after Josh Gagliastri came up with a steal, Marra was fouled and made one of two from the line for a 61-58
advantage. After D’Alberto and Marra both hit one free throw and Stillwater was called for a travel, Marra delivered two more from the line with 7.9 seconds remaining.
A last-second putback by Evans — who finished with 18 points and 18 rebounds — created the final margin.
“I’ve shot them pretty well all year,” said Marra. “I didn’t feel pressure. I’m just glad they fell.”
“Pat wants the ball in his hands,” said Loudis. “I want the ball in his hands. He’s a good shooter.”
Marra did much more than shoot, though, totaling 16 points to go along with nine assists and nine steals. Paul MacMillan had 21 points and four steals and Nick Lettrick had 18 points to help Mechanicville reached the sectional semifinals at the Glens Falls Civic Center for the first time since 2003.
Mechanicville will meet another Wasaren League opponent, Cambridge, Monday night at 6:30. Cambridge (No. 2, 18-3) defeated Water-
vliet (No. 7, 9-13) Friday, 48-45.
“It’s a great feeling. It’s been a long time since Mechanicville got up there,” said Marra, who scored all but two of his points in the second half. “It’s going to feel good stepping on that court.”
MacMillan hit a three-pointer and a layup, Josh Rougia scored down low and Lettrick scored on a putback to cap a 9-0 run and give Mechanicville its 38-25 lead. In Stillwater’s 33-20 push to tie, Deuel generated 13 of his 21 points,
Evans netted 11 and D’Alberto added seven of his 17.
“I told my guys we couldn’t trade baskets with them,” Cook said. “We needed good possessions on offense, but even more so, we needed some stops on defense. Our kids stepped up and never quit.”
“Give them credit. They came out and played us tough,” said Loudis.
Deuel did not play the first game against Mechanicville due to an
injury, and ended up reaching
career highs with five three-point baskets and 21 points, while also picking up five steals and three asists.
Deuel nailed three three-point hoops during his team’s comeback, including a third-quarter buzzer-beater to make it 46-40. His layup capped a 6-0 fourth-quarter spurt as the Warriors closed within
“He’s a streaky shooter,” Cook said of Deuel. “He goes in spells where he doesn’t miss.”
With the setback, Stillwater was denied its fifth straight trip to the sectional semifinals. The Warriors reached the Class CC final last year before losing to Schenectady Christian in double overtime. Cook’s 2006 team won the sectional crown and reached the state championship game.
“We made a 30-point improvement. Our goal early in the season was to make our last game our best, and you saw it,” Cook said. “Did we come up short? Yes we did, but there’s certain things we can be proud of.”
A senior forward, MacMillan scored his team’s final nine points of the opening half as Mechanicville went on top, 27-23.
Byer 1-1-3, Baker 1-0-2, D’Alberto 4-7-17, Deuel 8-0-21, Evans 8-2-18. Totals: 22-10-61.
Rougia 3-0-7, MacMillan 9-1-21, Marra
4-8-16, Gagliastri 1-0-2, Lettrick 7-4-18. Totals: 24-13-64.
Stillwater 10 13 17 21 — 61
Mechanicville 11 16 19 18 — 64
Three-point goals: D’Alberto 2, Deuel 5, Rougia, MacMillan 2.