Bishop Maginn rallied late behind a sophomore and a senior, and knocked off the most successful large-school team in the history of the state basketball tournament Saturday at the Glens Falls Civic Center.
Taran Buie and Shimeek Johnson combined for all but two points in a 13-4 game-closing charge as the Golden Griffins stunned Mount Vernon in a Class AA semifinal, 54-52, and denied the Knights an opportunity to play for a record-breaking ninth title.
“We’ve had big second halves all year. We picked it up, again,” coach Rich Hurley said after his Golden Griffins avenged last year’s 68-65 title-game loss. “Down the stretch, it was our defense that made the difference. We’re a defensive team.”
And one with clutch shooters, as well.
“Buie kept us in the game today,” Johnson said of the sophomore guard, who clicked for 20 points on 9-for-12 shooting from the field. “Without him, we probably would have lost the game.”
Buie delivered six points in the decisive run, Johnson scored five and Khaliq Gross added a layup after one of several key turnovers by Mount Vernon.
“We started pressing, got some steals, and got back in the game,” said Johnson, a 6-foot-7 senior forward who finished with nine points while containing Mount Vernon star Kevin Jones. “Once we started to score the crowd got hyped, and we fed off the crowd.”
With its 21st consecutive victory, Bishop Maginn (25-1) earned a championship date with Niagara Falls (Section VI, 25-1) today at 2:45. Niagara Falls slugged Baldwin (Section VIII, 19-4) in the first semifinal, 66-49, for its 25th straight win.
“I’m excited for my team, but I have mixed emotions. We beat Mount Vernon, but this was only a semifinal, and we still have a game to play,” said Hurley. “I knew we’d be ready to play this game, and I hope we can find the energy for one more. We have to raise up.”
Mount Vernon (Section I, 23-4) had done that eight times in championship games, last year tying Bridgehamton (Class D) for the all-time tournament record. The Knights beat Section II’s CBA in 2004 and 2006 semifinal games before claiming two of those crowns. A late rally gave them another last year, at Bishop Maginn’s expense.
“This means a lot. I’m very excited we get a chance to go back to the championship game. Hopefully we’ll get it done this year,” said Buie, who netted 16 second-half points while also collecting five reounds and four of the Griffins’ 12 steals. “We’re not finished. We want to do something special. We want to make school history.”
The Golden Griffins, ranked No.1 in the state, have never won a state title. The last Section II large-school team to do so was Schenectady (Class A) in 2001.
“We’ve got to play hard, rebound, and play as a team,” said Johnson.
Johnson’s team was trailing, 48-41, before the senior popped a three-point basket with 5:38 to go. Buie generated the next six points on two free throws, a layup after a steal and a baseline jumper which gave the Griffins their first lead since 3-2, at 50-48, with 2:21 left.
“Taran Buie was fantastic,” said Hurley, who has seen the standout 10th-grader score in double figures in all six postseason games. “What makes him great is he wants the ball.”
After Jones tied the game on a jumper, Johnson’s putback basket and Gross’ layup extended the lead to 54-52 with 78 seconds remaining, and Vaughn Allen’s layup made it 54-52 with 56 seconds left. Following a Maginn miss, a pileup under the Mount Vernon basket and a Knights time out after gaining possession, Allen missed a close-range shot, Buie blocked another by Sherron Wright, and Gross came away with the ball as time expired.
“Not one guy beat Mount Vernon,” Hurley said. “We did a great job as a team.”
Bishop Maginn played another strong defensive game, with Johnson in the most critical one-on-one matchup, with the 6-8 West Virginia-bound Jones. Jones finished with 17 points, his postseason low and six off his average, while also snaring a game-high nine rebounds.
“If he scores 29 on us like he did last year, we lose,” said Johnson, who also defended Jones in the 2007 final. “He still had a pretty good game. He’s a Division I player and he’ll probably go to the NBA. I just got a hand in his face and tried to stay with him.”
Jones and Wright scored nine points apiece in the first half to help the state’s No. 2-ranked team go up, 31-23. Bishop Maginn started the third quarter with an 11-3 run sparked by Buie’s six points to tie it at 34. Jones sandwiched low post baskets around a putback by Allen to kick-start a 14-7 counter run which carried into the final quarter.
Gross scored 11 points and Terron Victoria added seven points, six rebounds, three assists and a pair of steals. Mount Vernon ended up with 19 turnovers, two more than Maginn, and missed half of its 18 foul shots while the Griffins went 9-for-12.
Bishop Maginn’s only loss came against Jamesville-DeWitt, 68-66, back in early December. Jamesville-DeWitt (Section III, 23-2) beat three-time defending state Class A champ Peekskill (Section I, 25-1) in a semifinal game earlier Saturday, 74-55. Peekskill had won 37 straight games.
Niagara Falls got a combined 42 points and 21 rebounds from Kelvin Agee and Rashon Tabb in its semifinal game, which it started with a 23-12 first-quarter run. Niagara Falls won the 2005 state title, while losing in finals to Mount Vernon in 2004 and 2006.
Allen 3-0-6, Lessane 4-0-9, Hinds 1-0-2, Wright 4-5-14, Dinham 1-0-2, Clark 0-2-2, Jones 7-2-17. Totals: 20-9-52.
Buie 9-2-20, Gross 4-2-11, Davis 0-1-1, R. Johnson 1-0-2, Victoria 3-0-7, S.Johnson 4-0-9, Kargbo 0-3-3, Torres 0-1-1. Totals: 21-9-54.
Mount Vernon 16 15 11 10 — 52
Bishop Maginn 11 12 13 18 —54
Three-point goals: Lessane, Wright, Jones, Gross, Victoria, S. Johnson.