Josh Rougia stole the ball at the foul line, raced down court and pounded a two-handed slam dunk in the second quarter. Mechanicville’s faithful roared loud, Rougia was pumped and the Red Raiders appeared to be headed for their first easy one of this Section II tournament.
Rensselaer had other thoughts, and Mechanicville, as it has throughout the Section II tournament, turned it on late for a 56-51 Class CC-C playoff win Wednesday night at the Glens Falls Civic Center.
Rougia, Pat Marra and Paul MacMillan nailed timely three-point baskets in the fourth quarter after Mechanicville had surrendered the lead, and the Red Raiders
(19-5) prevailed in their fourth straight playoff going back to 1995.
“We don’t want to lose,” said Rougia, a junior guard who finished with 17 points, five rebounds, four steals and three assists. “We just keep trying and trying. We don’t want this to end.”
Mechanicville won its three Class CC games by a combined 10 points before surviving Rensselaer’s bid, which included a 16-9, game-tying third-quarter run. Chris Britt’s three-pointer had the Rams (17-7) up in the final quarter, 40-39, before MacMillan hit two free throws and Rougia dropped in his three to start a 13-4 charge.
“We bent, but we didn’t break,” said coach Joe Loudis, whose three Mechanicville teams improved to 10-1 at the Civic Center in Section II tournament play. “We hung in there. We scrimmaged them the last two years, and didn’t do so well, so this was a nice win for us.”
“There’s something about us. We never give up,” said Marra, a senior forward who netted 15 points and had five assists. “This is a great thing for our program. We busted our butts since day one, and to accomplish this, it’s a great feeling.
“Not too long ago, we were talking about getting to the Civic Center,” he said. “Now, we’re thinking about getting back.”
Mechanicville is one win away from reaching the state final four in Glens Falls, with a regional bye before Saturday’s 2 p.m. final at SUNY-Plattsburgh against the Section VII (Ticonderoga)-Section X (Brushton-Moira) winner.
“Joe, he’s the best,” said Rensselaer coach Dom Pitaniello. “He always has his kids prepared, and his kids play hard and aggressive. It was nice that we were able to give them a game.”
Rougia scored seven first-quarter points, and six more in a 13-6 spurt to close the second frame as Mechanicville turned a tie into a 28-21 lead. Nick Lettrick started the run with a three-point play, Marra finished it with a difficult baseline drive, and in between, Rougia had two layups and his slam dunk.
“That dunk was something else, but we started cheerleading, and it all went for nothing,” Loudis said. “The kids got too excited. We didn’t continue to play, and Rensselaer came back on us.”
Keith Britt scored five early points in the third quarter for the Rams, Justin Wilkinson sank a pair of three-pointers late and Shane Brozowski hit another as the Rams pulled even.
“We know it’s never over up here,” said Marra, the Class CC MVP who beat Cambridge in the semifinals on a last-second jumper. “We knew they’d make a run.”
Mechanicville saved its best run for the final quarter, with a free throw by MacMillan and Marra’s three making it 48-40.
After Wilkinson made two from the line and Chris Britt made a layup, Josh Gagliastri sank a foul shot for the Red Raiders and MacMillan drilled his three for a 52-44 lead at the 1:05 mark.
MacMillan totaled 12 points, eight coming in the fourth quarter,. Marra and Rougia hit late three-pointers in that game to help lift the Red Raiders to their first sectional banner since 2001.
“It’s nice that all of us can shoot,” said Rougia. “The whole team can score. We let it go.”
With Wednesday’s win, Loudis boosted his career win total to 420, and broke a tie with John Traver of Greenwich for sole possession of 10th place on the all-time Section II list.
C.Britt 2-0-5, Brozowski 3-0-7, Ballard 0-1-1, Wilkonson 5-2-16, Reynolds 1-2-4, K.Britt 8-2-18. Totals: 19-7-51.
Rougia 7-1-17, MacMillan 4-3-12, Marra 6-1-15, Gagliastri 0-3-3, Lettrick 4-1-9. Totals: 21-9-56.
Rensselaer 15 6 16 14 — 51
Mechanicville 9 19 9 19 — 56
Three-point goals: C. Britt, Brozowski, Wilkonson 4, Rougia 2, MacMillan, Marra 2.