Bishop Maginn standouts lead All-Area team

Shimeek Johnson and Taran Buie, who led Bishop Maginn to the state public high school Class AA champ
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T he wheels for a state Class AA championship were set in motion on March 18, 2007. That’s the day gritty underdog Bishop Maginn gave powerhouse Mount Vernon all it could handle in an eventual three-point heartbreaker.

“That was on our mind from the day we lost last year,” Golden Griffins coach Rich Hurley said of that 68-65 state title-game loss at the Glens Falls Civic Center. “That provided all the motivation they needed.”

Behind Shimeek Johnson, Taran Buie and a superb supporting cast, determined and talented Bishop Maginn went the distance last month, capping one of the greatest runs in the annals of Section II boys’ basketball with state final four victories over Mount Vernon and then Niagara Falls.

Buie excelled in those contests, just as fellow Daily Gazette All-Area first-team star Johnson had before in leading the Golden Griffins to their first Big 10 championship and second straight sectional banner.

For Buie, a 6-foot-2 sophomore guard, and Johnson, a 6-7 senior forward who will play at Division I Central Connecticut State next season, those performances put an exclamation point on their outstanding seasons.

“Shimeek came into his own as a player the last two years,” Hurley said of the Big 10 and Section II Class AA most valuable player. “He picked up his defense, which was not a strength when he came to us [from Albany], and he took his outside game to a higher level. He worked and worked on his jumper.”

Johnson averaged 15 points during Bishop Maginn’s 26-2 run to go along with 11.1 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 2.1 blocks. Buie averaged 16.3 points, 6.2 rebounds, 4 assists and 4.2 steals while enhancing his reputation as one of the state’s premier

10th-graders.

“These guys are basketball players, not just scorers,” Hurley said. “They played the game for the betterment of the team. They distributed the ball. They did the little things. They were very unselfish. This team just wanted to win.”

Bishop Maginn secured the Section II title with a 71-51 win over Christian Brothers Academy, a game in which Johnson had 20 points and nine rebounds, while Buie delivered 17 points, eight boards and five assists. Johnson was in the spotlight in a 71-69 overtime win against CBA before that, forcing the extra session on a last-second three, and netting his team’s first six points, as the Griffins cleared their biggest hurdle en route to a 16-0 Big 10 season.

Johnson finished with 23 points in that thriller and had six other games with 20 points or more, including 29 and 27 against Section II Class A champ Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons.

“We lost Talor [Battle] and Jalaun [Taylor], and they were our most consistent outside shooters,” Hurley said. “We needed that, and Shimeek and Taran took that to task. They worked all summer, and as a result, they came back better and were able to hit big shots for us.”

Hurley said Johnson provided more than clutch shots, key rebounds and defensive stops for Section II’s first state champion since 2001.

“He grew into a leadership role. He was great with the younger guys and the veterans, alike,” Hurley said of the

two-time state tournament all-star. “Talor was my comfort blanket last year when things weren’t going so well. He’d take care of things. This year it was Shimeek who’d come into the office and say, ‘I got this, coach.’ ”

Bishop Maginn got a measure of revenge against Mount Vernon in last month’s state semifinals, with Buie collecting 20 points (on 9-for-12 shooting) and four steals in a 54-52 win. He then scored 15 points in a 69-37 title-game rout of Niagara Falls. The sophomore sensation was named the state tournament MVP and later earned a spot on the Federation all-star team after scoring 18 in a semifinal loss to Abraham Lincoln.

“He knew his role was going to increase, and he embraced it,” Hurley said of the Big 10

first- team all-star and Section II

all-tourney selection. “He deferred to the seniors at times, but other times, he’s the guy we wanted to have the ball. He can post up, go to the hole and hit from the outside.”

Buie scored in double figures in 27 games and had seven with 20 points or more, topping out with 28 against Troy and 27 against Catholic Central.

“Ever since I’ve known him, he’s been a gamer. He loves basketball. He’s a basketball junkie,” Hurley said. “He’ll stay after practice and shoot 50 free throws, then he’ll go to the YMCA to work on his game. He’s always working on new moves.”

Quick and aggressive, Buie is also a defensive ace. His second-half exploits at that end proved huge in the win over Mount Vernon.

“His defense is second to none. He’s a disruptor. He has a nose for the basketball, and that’s one of the reasons he’s being recruited [by Division I colleges] like he is,” Hurley said. “He wants to play the other team’s best offensive player.”

brett marfurt

Guilderland’s captain turned ultra aggressive and nearly took the Dutchmen to the Section II Class AA final.

“He’s a strong kid, and he took it inside a lot more than before,” Guilderland coach Ron Osinski said of his 6-4 senior guard, the Suburban Council Player of the Year. “That was his big improvement area. It was noticably so. He always shot the three very well, but he got better at taking kids off the dribble and not being as predictable.”

With his inside and outside scoring, Marfurt reached double figures in every game and averaged 19.6 points on 45.5 percent shooting from the field, to go along with 7.5 rebounds and 3.2 assists. Combined with his solid defense, leadership skills and big-game composure, the Colgate-bound senior proved to be the irreplaceable ingredient in the Dutchmen’s perfect Suburban Council record and run to the sectional semifinals.

Guilderland won 20 games, eight more than the season before, and during one stretch strung together 14 straight behind its catalyst.

“He rebounded. He took the ball to the rack and scored from outside. He defended big guys, forwards and guards,” Osinski said of the athletic and academic standout. “He was the total package for us, and it was all in an effort to help the team win. That was his goal, to win.”

Marfurt twice reached 29 points this season and nine other times netted 20 or more. That included a 24-point effort in a sectional quarterfinal win over Shaker in which he sank a

season-high five threes.

Guilderland lost to CBA in the semis by one point, a game in which Marfurt totaled 19 points and 10 rebounds. That left the Section II tournament all-star with 993 career points.

“He was our leading scorer and rebounder as a junior. We expected that from him, but he brought a lot more to the table this year,” Osinski said. “He was a great leader for us. He set the example with how hard he played and practiced, and the other guys followed his lead.”

Osinski said Marfurt played extremely hard on defense, though his performances were often overshadowed by his offensive fireworks.

“I think he took a hit on defense, more so as a sophomore and junior, but he always played the toughest kid,” the coach said. “He took on that task, and I’d say he played pretty well. He did what he had to do.”

tashan newsome

One of Section II’s most exciting players was also one of its most productive. Newsome averaged 18.7 points, 5.1 rebounds and 4.2 assists in leading Colonie to 16 wins and a spot in the Section II Class AA semifinals.

“Here’s a guy who can play with anyone in the area,” Colonie coach Doug Kilmer said of his 6-2 guard, a two-time Suburban Council first team all-star. “He doesn’t have a flaw in his game. Without him, we would have been in deep weeds.”

Newsome played this season with a foot-long rod in his left shin, a corrective measure for a stress fracture, and came on after a slow start. He averaged 14.6 points in his first five games and 19.8 over his final 18, which included a career-high 29 against Ballston Spa and 28 in a sectional win over Catholic Central.

“At the beginning of the season, the first couple of weeks, he was limping around and still scoring 10, 12, 14 points,” said Kilmer. “At the end of the season, he had more pop in his legs.”

The slam dunk was back in Newsome’s repertoire by then, to go along with his slick drives and soft jumpers from everywhere on the court. He made 52 three-point baskets on 42 percent shooting, and also delivered from the line where he clicked for 102 foul shots on 80 percent accuracy.

Newsome was 12-for-12 from the line in that Catholic Central win to go along with four

three-pointers. He made at least one three-pointer in every contest, and drained a

season-best six against Shaker.

“He’s a crunch-time player,” said Kilmer of his combination guard. “When we needed a shot, he made the shot. He delivered for us for two years, and let’s not forget, he’s a very good passer and ball handler.”

Newsome scored 20 points or more in all three of Colonie’s playoff games and nine times in all. He went out with 21 points in Colonie’s near upset of Bishop Maginn in the sectional semifinals, and was named to the all-tournament team.

“The overall trait of him is he’s very, very competitive. He really had his eye on the scoreboard. He wants to win the game,” Kilmer said. “Some kids play to win, and some kids just play. He’s in the first group.”

jordan stevens

A mid-season hand injury may have slowed the Division I prospect, but no opponent did, with the 6-foot-5 Saratoga Springs junior swingman averaging 22.5 points over 14 games, the highest average among Section II

large-school players.

“In our first game he scored 17 points against Vestal. He didn’t score less than 18 in any game after that,” Blue Steaks coach Mitch Snyder said of the

two-time All-Area first-teamer. “He was a better offensive player this year. He was a lot stronger and more aggressive.”

Aggressive play cost Stevens seven games and most likely an opportunity to reach 2,000 career points. A varsity player since the

eighth grade, Stevens will head into his final season with 1,402 points.

“He dove on the floor going after a loose ball,” said Snyder. “He got hurt hustling.”

Stevens injured his left hand — his shooting hand — against Glens Falls at the Arthur Hilliard Tournament in late December. He still managed 20 points, and played the next night against Schenectady and produced 19. He scored 18 points in his first game back from the injury against Shaker and followed up with 26 against Columbia.

“When he came back, he was even better,” Snyder said of the first team Suburban Council

all-star who was the league’s player of the year as a sophomore. “I thought it would take a while, but he stepped right in and produced.”

Stevens scored a career-high 34 points against Glens Falls early in the season and closed out with three straight 23-point showings.

“In our last game against CBA we were taking it on the chin, and he was battling the whole game. We were down 20 and he was blocking shots and going at people,” said Snyder. “In my opinion, he was the best player on the court that night.”

Stevens averaged 18.7 points as a sophomore and led Saratoga to the Section II Class AA semifinals. He scored in double digits in every game that season, too, using short and long jumpers, drives, dunks and free throws to amass his numbers.

“He had a lot of help the year before with [Garret] Bishop and some other kids,” Snyder said. “He didn’t draw quite as much attention as he did this year. This year, people were all over him, and for good reason, and he still got it done.”

A versatile performer, Stevens also averaged seven rebounds, four assists, three steals and two blocks per game. His passing skills are often overshadowed by his scoring exploits.

“He puts the ball in a spot where kids need it and want it. He has a great feel for that,” Snyder said. “I was talking to the North Dakota State coach and he said Jordan is the best passer he’s ever seen at that level.”

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