With a quality cast of varsity veterans and a solid junior varsity group on the way up, the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake boys’ basketball program appears to have a very promising future.
Bill Martin called it a perfect
scenario for his departure.
“I always said I wanted to go out with the program in good shape, and I believe it is,” said Martin, who
recently announced that he’ll be stepping down as the Spartans’ varsity coach after a successful 10-year run. “After those sectional titles, I knew we were in for a some rebuilding years. We battled through it, and this year, we got back to the Glens Falls Civic Center, and we’ve got a lot of kids back and some good, athletic JV kids.
“We’ve got good leadership and good talent here. If the kids stay healthy and the pieces fall together, maybe they can get back to the Civic Center, and maybe go a little further than we did this year.”
Martin’s final team reached the Section II Class A semifinals before losing to eventual champion Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons, and finished with a 12-11 record. That was Martin’s fourth team to make it to Glens Falls for the sectional final four, and his eighth squad to complete a season with a double-digit victory total.
“I was thinking about it for some time, and in January, I made up my mind,” said Martin. “I can’t say it’s a lack of energy. I just think it’s time to let someone else do it who can maybe relate to the kids in a different way.”
The Spartans went 121-104 under the 61-year-old Martin, and reached three Section II title games, winning a pair of them. Both of those teams, 2004 and 2005, made it to the state regional finals. The Spartans also captured the Suburban Council Gold Division and postseason tournament championships under his guidance in 2002.
“I’m proud that I was able to get the kids to work hard for the program,” said Martin. “Some wins stand out, and those back-to-back championships were great, but seeing how my kids responded, that leaves you with a good feeling.”
Martin and the Spartans were feeling awfully good after beating Gloversville for the Section II Class A banner in 2004. The following year, they repeated as sectional champions, but had to pull out three thrillers to get it done.
“That was really exciting,” said Martin, recalling BH-BL’s 54-52 title-game victory over Glens Falls in 2005. “I remember [Indians star Jimmer] Fredette going to the line, and we were up by two [53-51]. He was an 86 percent free-throw shooter, and I told the guys, ‘He’s got to miss sometime.’ ”
Fredette made a foul shot with 1.9 seconds left and, after the Burnt Hills’ timeout, Section II’s career scoring leader missed his second attempt. Steve Madej created the final margin with a foul shot at the other end, giving BH-BL its first sectional championship since 1991.
“The kids came ready to play,” Martin said. “They never quit, and we pulled a few out.”
Burnt Hills rallied from a 21-point deficit to beat Gloversville in that year’s sectional quarterfinals,
62-59, and edged top-seeded Albany Academy in the semis, 60-59, on a free throw by Madej with one second left.
Madej was the star of that team, while Martin also worked with such standouts as Jeff Juron, Adam McGuire and Matt Riggins, each a Daily Gazette All-Area first-team performer.
“I had some super players, but also some guys who maybe weren’t the best players, but gave a great effort. Guys like Nick Querques and Sean Merchant. You remember them for that,” said Martin. “Great, great kids.”
Martin worked his players hard in preparation for league and sectional battles.
“He wanted to get the best out of us,” said BH-BL senior David Fischer, who scored a career-high 30 points in the 65-56 sectional loss to Bishop Gibbons just over a month ago. “That’s why he worked us hard in practice. All that running, it definitely paid off. Look where we got.”
Martin was a no-nonsense coach who used basketball to impart life lessons. One of his rules was to sit a player for the remainder of the game if they were called for a technical foul.
“There were some times where we had to take it on the chin, but in the long run, I believe it was all worth it,” said Martin, who retired as a BOCES teacher in the BH-BL school district seven years ago. “I think the kids understood what I was trying to do, what message I was trying to send.”
Martin led the BH-BL junior varsity for nine seasons before taking over for Gary Bynon prior to the 1998-99 season. Martin took charge of the varsity team in a December 1993 game when Bynon was attending to personal matters, and led the Spartans 43-31 win over Albany Academy.
A graduate of Bishop Gibbons and Springfield College, Martin also coached lower level football and wrestling at BH-BL, and served as an assistant track coach.
“I’ve been at Burnt Hills for 24 years, and have coached in about 60 sports seasons,” said Martin, who enjoys golf, hunting, camping and traveling in his free time. “It’s been a lot of fun for me.”