While postgame awards were being doled out, players from the Christian Brothers Academy basketball team smiled wide, and exchanged high-fives. Those from New York heavyweight Half Hallow Hills West slumped on their bench in disappointment after spending a frustrating afternoon at the Glens Falls Civic Center.
The Brothers stymied the Colts with their matchup zone defense, and used a key scoring surge midway through Sunday’s state Class AA championship game to forge a 71-53 victory and continue their brilliant postseason run.
“It feels good to be the first team to put a banner on the gym wall,” said CBA junior guard Galal Cancer, who scored 19 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. “It will be with us forever.”
Tournament most valuable player Kam Ritter notched 17 points, Max Weaver fired in 15 and CBA (24-1) never trailed after the first quarter, just like in Saturday’s 60-41 semifinal pounding of 2009 state champ Newburgh Free Academy.
Back-to-back three-pointers by Christian Signor and Weaver gave the Brothers a 13-7 advantage early in the second quarter, and by early in the fourth, the Brothers were up by 20 against a Half Hallow Hills West (Section XI, 24-2) team that came in ranked No. 18 in the USA Today Super 25.
“We knew we were good, but to be here and win by such a margin, it’s amazing,” said senior guard Josh Dennis, whose runner capped a 20-12 second-quarter spurt that gave CBA a 27-19 lead.
The Brothers followed their second-quarter success with an 18-10 push, and spent the rest of the contest holding off the Colts of Suffolk County. Seventeen of CBA’s final 19 points came from the free-throw line.
“Those last six minutes were the longest six minutes of my life,” said Ritter, a senior swingman who was 9-for-9 from the line and snared seven rebounds. “That quarter took forever.”
The wait was well worth it, though, as CBA secured its first state basketball title after semifinal defeats in 2004 and 2006. Sunday’s performance also gave the Big 10 its second New York State Public High School Athletic Asssociation winner in three years, following Bishop Maginn’s 2008 run.
The Brothers will meet Christ the King (24-6) in a Federation tournament game Saturday at the Civic Center after winning the school’s first state title in any sport since its 1986 baseball team went the distance.
“I’m blessed to have guys like this, who are caring and willing to put it all out there,” said CBA coach Dave Doemel.
CBA shot better and rebounded better (49-28) than the Colts, and flustered them with its active matchup zone. Colts’ 6-foot-9 star Tobias Harris blocked six shots, yet managed only eight points and seven rebounds before becoming the first of four to foul out with 1:10 left in the third quarter and his team down, 41-29.
New York’s Mr. Basketball award winner drew his fourth foul attempting a steal, and had to exit the game moments later when he was whistled for a technical foul.
“They lost their composure a little, and that’s too bad,” said Doemel, after watching HHHW commit 30 fouls. “They had a great season.”
“It’s a state championship game, and you’re going to get emotional,” said Dennis. “You’ve got to hold it in. That’s what I kept telling the younger guys.”
CBA maintained its cool while combating HHHW’s pressure defense and while at the line, finishing with 29 foul shots on 35 attempts. Cancer was 7-for-11, and reserve guard Chaz Lott was 6-for-8.
“We knew if we kept our heads, kept our composure, we could win,” said Ritter.
Staunch defense had a lot to do with the victory, too, just as it had in six playoff games before, when CBA held each of those opponents under 50. Lott had two steals against HHHW, the Brothers forced a 35-second violation and snared 31 defensive rebounds, and Jack Reilly, Weaver and Ritter each drew a charging foul.
“We preach defense in practice,” said Ritter, after CBA’s seventh double-digit postseason win. “We came into this year, and said we were going to be a defensive team. This is what happens when you play defense.”
CBA employed its matchup zone Saturday before going with it again against a taller and athletically gifted Colts’ lineup. Tavon Sledge scored 33 points for HHHW, yet 22 of them came after Cancer’s three gave CBA a 36-21 lead with 3:10 left in the third quarter.
“That’s not a normal deal, the matchup zone. We’re usually a man-to-man team,” said Doemel, who learned the defensive set long ago from former CBA coach Bill Telasky. “I told our guys, ‘We’re going old-school CBA,’ and they pulled up their britches and did that.
“They’re [HHHW] an emotional team and if you let them get going, it energizes them. We staved them off.”
Cancer, Weaver, Harris and Sledge were named to the all-tourney team.
CBA’s only loss came against Westhill in late December, 59-57, in a non-league game decided in the final seconds. Westhill (Section III, 22-2) won the state Class B title Saturday with a 60-51 victory over Burke Catholic (Section IX, 20-4).
HALF HALLOW HILLS WEST
Cox 1-0-2, Harris 2-4-8, McCree 1-0-2, Sledge 13-4-33, Blackman 2-4-8. Totals: 19-12-53.
Weaver 5-4-15, Lott 0-6-6, Krong 2-1-5, Cusato 1-0-2, G. Cancer 5-7-19, Dennis 1-0-2, Ritter 4-9-17, Signor 1-0-3, Reilly 0-2-2. Totals: 19-29-71.
HHHW 7 12 10 24 — 53
CBA 7 20 18 26 — 71
Three-point goals: Sledge 3, Weaver, G. Cancer 2, Signor.
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Categories: High School Sports