Bishop Maginn needs fast start against Abraham Lincoln

Bishop Maginn wants to make a statement early in Saturday’s New York State Federation Tournament of

Bishop Maginn wants to make a statement early in Saturday’s New York State Federation Tournament of Champions Class AA semifinal game with Abraham Lincoln.

The Golden Griffins can do that with some defensive stops, rebounds and baskets.

“We have to let them know that we’re there, that we’re not a fluke,” Bishop Maginn coach Rich Hurley said. “We have to go out and play. We have to hang in early with them, be aggressive and show that we’ll be there for 32 minutes.”

It took only a few minutes for Lincoln (28-4) to establish itself in an 88-57 win over Boys & Girls in the Public Schools Athletic League championship game at Madison Square Garden. The Railsplitters of Brooklyn rolled to a 23-9 first-quarter lead, and doubled their advantage by the half, 42-21. The margin grew to 29 at the end of three, and by then, Lincoln, sparked by star 6-foot-5 junior guard Lance Stephenson, had all but wrapped up its third straight PSAL title.

Bishop Maginn (26-1) does not want to be the next victim like Boys & Girls when it meets up with the defending Federation champs in Saturday’s 3:45 p.m. game at the Glens Falls Civic Center.

“We’re going to do what we do, and play the way we play,” said Hurley, who guided the Griffins to their first New York State Public High School Athletic Association title two weeks ago with wins over Mount Vernon (54-52) and Niagara Falls (68-37). “We’re a confident basketball team. We’re 26-1 for a reason, but at the same time, we know they’re very good.”

Lincoln has been that for quite some time, with its alumni including NBA stars Stephon Marbury and Sebastian Telfair. The Railsplitters show seven Federation championship game appearances since 1986, and additional titles in 2003 and 1995. Lincoln’s three titles match the number of wins Section II has attained in the history of the Federation tournament, which started in 1979.

Schenectady was the last area team to win a game, in the 2001 Class A semifinals against William Grady, while Watervliet is the lone area team to win a Federation championship, beating Turner-Carroll of Buffalo for 1991 Class C honors.

“If you think you’re going to roll through another Section II team, that’s not what Bishop Maginn has in mind,” said Hurley, whose team’s 22-game win streak also includes a 56-50 regional triumph over Henninger and a 71-51 victory over CBA in the Section II final. “We’ve faced some challenges as the underdog before. No one thought we’d beat Mount Vernon.”

Sophomore guard Taran Buie and senior forward Shimeek Johnson fueled a 13-4 game-closing run against Mount Vernon with 11 points as Bishop Maginn knocked off the eight-time NYSPHSAA champs. The Griffins ended

Niagara Falls’ 25-game win streak after that, a result that pushed the Griffins up to No. 24 on the USA Today Super 25 national rankings. Lincoln is ranked No. 14 in the

Super 25 poll.

“We can’t let them get off early,” said Hurley. “We want to start the game well, get into a good flow. Our guys have done a great job of coming ready to play.”

Bishop Maginn must play with taller Lincoln on the backboards.

“They go 6-8, 6-7, 6-6 across. They’re a very good second chance basketball team. That’s what they do,” said Hurley. “We’ve got to limit them. When they miss a first shot, we can’t give them another. We’ve got to rebound.”

And somehow contain Stephenson, New York City’s next big thing who is being recruited by a slew of major Division I colleges. He scored 25 points in a 75-60 PSAL semifinal win over Jefferson, and netted 27 with eight rebounds and four assists against Boys & Girls.

Stephenson got plenty of support in the PSAL final as junior guard Darwin Ellis scored 13 points, 6-7 senior forward Justin Green netted 12 and 6-8 junior center James Padgett added 11. Buie topped Bishop Maginn in its last outing with 15 points, junior center/forward James Torres scored 12, while Johnson and senior guard Terron Victoria both chipped in with nine.

Catholic High School Athletic Association champion Holy Cross (22-8) will meet the Bishop Maginn-Lincoln winner Sunday at 2. Holy Cross got 24 points and 13 rebounds from Virginia-bound Mr. New York Basketball Sylven Landesberg and beat Christ the King, 56-48, for its first CHSAA title in 40 years.

Lincoln beat Rice in the 2007 Class AA Federation title game, 68-62, with Stephenson gaining the most valuable player award after a 20-point, 15-rebound performance. Lincoln lost in the 2006 Federation final to Mount Vernon, 62-60.

NYSPHSAA representatives Jamesville-DeWitt (24-2, Class A) and Olean (25-2, Class B) will see semifinal action today. Jamesville-DeWitt has local ties, having beaten Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons in the regionals while also owning the lone victory over Bishop Maginn.

The girls’ Federation field includes New York City heavyweights Murry Bergtraum (23-0, PSAL, Class AA) and Christ the King (15-12, CHSAA, Class A), who combined to win 17 of the last 18 large-school championships, as well as NYSPHSAA represent­atives Rush-Henrietta (24-3, Class AA), Franklin Academy (24-2, Class A) and Briarcliff (26-1, Class B).

Bergtraum comes into the event with a No. 2 USA Today Super 25 national ranking, and is eyeing its second straight perfect season and fifth Federation title since 2002. Christ the King has dropped down in class this year after capturing 13 large-school championships, including 11 in a row from 1990-2000. Colonie ended that streak in 2001.

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