Bunduka Kargbo turned a steal into a layup to start the scoring in Sunday’s New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class AA championship game between Bishop Maginn and Niagara Falls. Another steal by Taran Buie led to a successful drive by Kargbo, and soon after, Buie’s second theft resulted in his own basket.
With that quick flurry, the tone had been set, and in the end, history had been made.
“We took their heart away early with our press and those easy baskets,” Buie said after the Golden Griffins’ 68-37 victory over the Wolverines at the Glens Falls Civic Center. “They kind of folded the tent up.”
In its biggest game, the Golden Griffins played their best defense, allowing just 14 field goals and single digits in three of four quarters en route to their first state title
after coming so close a year ago.
Bishop Maginn went up, 8-2, in the opening minutes, led by as many as 12 in the second quarter, and used a 15-2 third-quarter spurt to stretch its advantage to 19, at 45-26.
“That’s how we play. We keep coming,” coach Rich Hurley said after his Griffins ended Niagara Falls’ 25-game win streak and brought the state large-school banner back to Section II for the first time since 2001. “I don’t think teams realize how hard we play. It’s something we work on. It doesn’t come easy.”
Bishop Maginn (26-1) made eight of its 11 steals in the first half, while at the other end, James Torres netted 10 of his 12 points. Buie scored a game-high 15, including seven in the key third-quarter run which sealed the Wolverines’ (Section VI, 25-2) fate, and sent Bishop Maginn to the Federation tournament in two weeks.
“Last year I got in a little trouble at school,” said Torres, a husky 6-2 junior forward who was ineligible for the 2007 final four. “I wanted to show people that if I was in there, maybe it would have been a different outcome.”
Bishop Maginn lost in last year’s title game to Mount Vernon, 68-65, and avenged that defeat Saturday with a 54-52 semifinal win over the eight-time state champ. Sunday’s victory was Maginn’s 22nd in a row, and denied Niagara Falls its second championship in four years.
“This group never wavered. They stayed focused and worked so hard,” said Hurley, whose team came into the weekend with a
No. 1 state ranking. “They just had their eye on the prize. They didn’t play their best all the time, but they kept grinding.”
“This is a great feeling, to do it in my senior year,” said Maginn guard Terron Victoria, who, like fellow all-tournament pick Shimeek Johnson, finished with nine points and seven rebounds. “Last year, we were very, very close, and this year, we finished it off.”
“Once we had our eye on this, there was no way we were going to let it get away,” said Torres, who had five rebounds and a steal. “We came out ready to play defense, and defense wins championships.”
With Buie and Kargbo supplying the one-on-one defense, Rashan Tabb and Kelvin Algee scored a combined 12 points on 3-for-21 shooting, after the all-tourney picks had joined for 42 points in Saturday’s 66-49 semifinal win over Baldwin. Niagara Falls’ 37-point total was the lowest in a large-school title game since Greece-Athena
stymied Liverpool in 1992
(Class A), 60-37, and by far the Wolverines’ low for the season.
“They took us out of our offense,” said Niagara Falls coach Giulio Colangelo. “We’re a fastbreak team, and we weren’t able to get that going. When we did, we didn’t finish. We missed some easy baskets.”
Bishop Maginn spread the offensive wealth, with Khaliq Gross scoring eight points, Kargbo getting seven with four assists, and Raja Johnson coming off the bench to hit a pair of threes in the final minute.
The defensive stops were a shared effort, as well. Niagara Falls ended up shooting 26.9 percent
(14-for-52) and also hurt itself with 12 missed free throws and 17 turnovers, nine more than Maginn.
“All year we talked about defense,” said Victoria. “Early in the game, we were scrambling and pressuring kids, and I think it discouraged them a little.”
Niagara Falls put together its only run in the second quarter, a 9-2 spurt to get within 25-20, before Torres’ three-point play ended the half. The Wolverines crept within 28-22 and 30-24 early in the third before Bishop Maginn went on its 15-2 charge.
Niagara Falls managed only two foul shots during the run, while missing four more.
“We slacked off in the second quarter a little,” Victoria said. “At the break, we came together, and we were determined to play better defense in the second half.”
Buie started Maginn’s 15-2 run with a layup, and the Class AA MVP later had a putback basket and a three-pointer. Victoria followed that three with another to cap the spree.
“I think we wore them down,” said Hurley. “We were running
Bishop Maginn also kept Niagara Falls from dominating the glass, as it had Saturday with 60 rebounds against Baldwin. Both the Griffins and the Wolverines pulled down 42 boards, and second-chance points were few for the losing group.
“We talk about the glass before all of our big games,” said Hurley. “Defense and rebounding are the things that win you basketball games. We preach that six days a week.”
The 37 points were the fewest allowed by Bishop Maginn this season, and in seven postseason games, the 52 scored by Mount Vernon were the most it gave up. Kargbo had a team-high four steals Sunday, and Buie, a sophomore guard, had four of Maginn’s 12 thefts Saturday to go along with his 20 points.
Bishop Maginn’s only loss came in December by two points against Jamesville-DeWitt (Section III,
24-2), which garnered the state Class A title Sunday with a 78-54 win over East Hampton (Section XI, 23-2) .
Bishop Maginn will play the Public School Athletic League representative Lincoln, defeated Boys and Girls, in a Federation semifinal game
March 29 (2:45 p.m.) at the Civic Center.
Buie 6-2-15, Gross 1-6-8, Davis 1-0-2, R. Johnson 2-0-6, Victoria 2-3-9, S. Johnson 4-1-9, Kargbo 3-1-7, Torres 4-4-12. Totals: 23-17-68.
Tabb 2-3-8, Crittendon 4-0-8, Marshall 1-0-2, Agee 1-2-4, Bryant 1-0-2, Repress 2-0-4, Daniels 0-2-2, Spanbauer 3-1-7. Totals: 14-8-37.
Bishop Maginn 16 12 19 21 — 68
Niagara Falls 9 11 8 9 — 37
Three-point goals: Tabb, Buie, R. Johnson 2, Victoria 2.