For Mekeel Christian Academy’s offense to work efficiently, coach Chad Bowman knew he needed an inside presence to go with all of his fine outside shooters.
He asked Collin Stewart to fill that role, and his starting point guard not only accepted it, but also flourished in a record-breaking season.
“Make no mistake. Going into the paint showed his unselfishness,” Bowman said of his 6-foot-7 Daily Gazette All-Area first-team star. “It’s not what he loves to do. He wants to be at the three-point line.”
Stewart will be on the perimeter often at Division I Monmouth University next season as a shooting guard and small forward. While he roamed outside this season, too, it was down low where he delivered much of his program-record 622 points. Stewart poured in a school-record 45 in a 88-72 win over Sharon Springs, and topped that with 47 when the Lions beat Fort Plain, 76-59, for the Western Athletic Conference overall championship.
“Collin had been a perimeter player his entire life. He was a 5-10 freshman guard. Even as a junior, he was away from the basket,” Bowman said. “It was an adjustment he had to make, not to run to the arc, and look at his scoring average in the second half. He really started to embrace going down in the paint, and we were more effective. That was the key.”
Stewart never scored fewer than 21 points, and his nine games of 30 or more included a 39-point effort when the Lions beat Cobleskill-Richmondville in their sectional opener, 70-44. He boosted his average to 29.6 points after netting 20.7 per game as a junior.
“Every team put its focus on stopping him. He saw every kind of defense — junk, loading up, players running at him, physical. He was able to rise to the challenge,” Bowman said of his two-time Section II all-tournament pick and WAC Southern Division Most Valuable Player. “He was consistent this year. He didn’t have four or five games where he didn’t show up.”
Stewart shot 53 percent from the field with 31 three-point baskets, and shot 73 percent from the line, which included 10-for-10, 9-for-9, 9-for-10, 10-for-12 and 11-for-13 performances.
“He was difficult to cover because of his versatility,” said Bowman. “He really worked on his ball handling and ability to get to the rim and go by people. For a 6-7 player, he’s shifty. He can create space from a defender.”
Stewart averaged 11.9 rebounds, which included a career-high 25 in a win over Schoharie. He also averaged 2.7 blocks and 2.5 assists to go with 27 steals in his superb all-around season that ended in the Section II Class B semifinals. In that 71-57 loss to Cohoes, Stewart scored 24 points and moved to the top of the school’s career scoring list, finishing with 1,481 points.
Stewart was called up to the Mekeel (called Schenectady Christian School prior to this school year) varsity midway through the 2008-09 season and helped his teams go 60-11 with four WAC Southern Division titles and three Section II semifinal berths.
“He followed the example of a lot of great players before him, and now he’s an example kid. He improved each year and played hard and played with class. He accomplished so much from both an individual and team standpoint,” said Bowman. “He’s one we’ll point the younger player to, the guys who want to put on a varsity jersey someday.”
The outside shot wasn’t falling, so Jordan McBride took his game inside, and didn’t miss.
On that night, the Mechanicville senior guard went 10-for-10 from inside the arc and added 14 free throws for 34 points in a 59-37 Section II Class C semifinal win over Greenwich. It was one of seven times he generated 30 points or more in the Red Raiders’ final 12 games.
“When he wasn’t knocking down the outside shot, he attacked. He’s smart that way,” said Mechanicville coach Rian Richardson.
McBride did his damage from all over the court, sinking 55 three-point baskets and a Section II-leading 168 foul shots on 79.3 percent accuracy.
“His best attribute is getting into the paint and finishing, or setting up a teammate to finish. He’s stronger, quicker and faster than he gets credit for, and his body control in the paint is second to none,” said Richardson. “But he’s a threat from every part of the court. He’s a scorer. He’s a weapon.”
McBride set a school record this season with 622 points in leading Mechanicville to Section II and regional Class C championships, a spot in the state semifinals and 19 wins.
“We got to the state final four, and he had us on his back,” Richardson said of the 6-0 Colonial Council and Section II tournament MVP. “Everyone knew he was our leader, and he performed, night in and night out.”
McBride went out with a bang, firing in 37 points with six assists in an 80-73 state semifial loss to Tuckahoe. Only twice had he scored more, with 40 last season against Cohoes and 39 in early February against Lansingburgh.
“He battled. He scored 37 against the No. 1 team in the state, with athlete after athlete covering him,” Richardson said of his all-tournament pick, who closed out his career with 1,082 career points. “Some people say [Tuckahoe star] Sky Williams is a Division I player, but I thought Jordan was the best player on the court.”
McBride averaged 24.9 points, 5.6 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 3.5 steals.
“He’s a pure basketball player, a great basketball player. He does it all,” said Richardson. “I can’t say enough about him. I’ll probably cry in late June when he walks across the stage.”
McBride’s work as a top wing in Mechanicville’s 3-2 zone was exceptional. He helped the Red Raiders hold four postseason opponents to 40 points or less.
“He’s real sneaky,” Richardson said. “He’d lure the other team into making a pass and then steal it and go the other way, and he was great in transition from defense to offense.”
Cameron Dobbs was a different player this season. Different, as in better.
“He was selected a Suburban Council all-star last year. Top five. I remember at our banquet saying to him, ‘Next year, work to be Player of the Year.’ ” Guilderland coach Ron Osinski said. “He worked hard, and he did that. He was quicker, he jumped better, he was stronger. All of those things contributed to him having the season he did.”
The 5-11 senior shooting guard led all Suburban Council players in all-star votes as well as average, netting 21.9 points per game in leading the Dutchmen to a share of the South Division title and their most wins (15) since the 2007-08 season.
Dobbs scored in double figures in every game in topping his junior average (16.4), including outbursts of 35 and 33 points in wins over Glens Falls and Averill Park. Those 35 points were a career-high, and included 17 in one quarter. The seven threes he sank against Averill Park were another career best.
In three other wins, Dobbs made six threes, and collected 57 of them in Guilderland’s 20 games. His six threes and 23 points helped Guilderland end Shenendehowa’s 48-game Suburban Council winning streak in a 65-53 triumph.
“He can pull up and hit the three. He can hit the mid-range shot. He can take it to the rim against bigger guys. The kid can get his shot off against anyone,” said Osinski. “He’s a tough kid to guard.”
Dobbs often beat a defense to the basket after taking in a long outlet pass or stealing the ball in the open court. The lefty averaged three steals to go with his four assists and three rebounds per contest.
“Dobbs can be a one-man fast break,” said Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake coach George Dudas.
“He’s one of the quickest kids dribbling from one end of the court to the other,” said Osinski.
Dobbs was selected the Suburban Council Player of the Week (Jan. 23-27) after scoring 22 points against Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake in a victory that stretched Guilderland’s winning streak to nine games.
“Cameron wants to win, but I told him in the beginning of the year that he can’t do it alone,” said Osinski. “He had to trust the players around him and make them better. He did that pretty good.”
When Joe Krong hit that 12-foot leaner to force overtime with seconds to go in the Section II Class AA title game, it wasn’t the first time he’d delivered in a pressure-packed moment.
“As a pure shooter, he’s one of the finest we’ve had in a while,” CBA coach Dave Doemel said of the first-team Big 10 all-star and Class AA tournament MVP. “That type of player is a great weapon to have on your side. He carried us through some big games.”
The Brothers won 21 games this season and 89 of them in Krong’s four-season varsity career, with not only his shooting, but also his passing, rebounding, smart defensive positioning and calming effect on his teammates. All were key factors.
“His biggest asset is coming off a screen and shooting the ball, but he was one of our best guys at feeding the post, and he did a nice job of rebounding for us. He knows how to box out,” Doemel said. “For us to win, he had to rebound, and he did well considering he was usually going up against bigger guys.”
The 6-4 small forward played big when CBA beat Troy in the Section II final, 62-57. His 14 points included five inside the final two minutes of regulation and four in overtime, and he added eight rebounds and three assists.
“He was an outstanding shooter in big spots over the years,” said Doemel. “He hit a shot before halftime against Albany Academy as a freshman [in the Class AA final] that gave us momentum, and in the second half we rode that momentum. The shot in the Troy game propelled us into overtime and onto victory.”
Krong was part of four Section II title teams. During his career CBA also secured three regional titles, two Big 10 crowns and in 2010 the state championship. Krong scored in double digits in CBA’s final five playoff games this season, finishing with 12 points on four three-point baskets in a state semifinal loss to Mount Vernon.
“A guy who can catch and shoot is always desired. That attracts attention,” said Doemel. “College coaches like guys who can make the defense expand.”
Krong set a CBA record this season with 56 three-point hoops, including six against Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons and five against Catholic Central when he netted 23 points each time. He reached double figures 20 times in all while averaging 15 points in a balanced attack to go with 5.8 rebounds and 2.8 assists.
“Teams had to respect his jump shot,” said Doemel. “That opened things up for our guys inside. He helped us score without scoring.”
Troy coach Rich Hurley asked Trahmier Burrell to fill many roles, and the 6-4 senior guard continually answered the call in leading the Flying Horses to their first Big 10 championship, a Section II runner-up finish and 19 victories.
“I knew how talented he was because I coached him as a freshman at Bishop Maginn. He was our point guard at times and our scoring guard at times. He was our best defender at times and a rebounder at other times,” said Hurley of the Big 10 MVP and Section II all-tournament pick. “He didn’t back down from those challenges.”
Burrell led Troy with a 17.1 scoring average, and reached double figures 19 times topped by a 29-point effort against Albany. He nailed 33 three-point baskets, including five in a sectional triumph over Niskayuna, and his deep go-ahead hoist with 18 seconds left ended CBA’s 40-game Big 10 winning streak in a 45-43 decision.
Burrell also had a pair of 27-point games, his first coming against Albany when Troy clinched the Big 10 title, and his second coming in the sectional final against CBA when he collected nine rebounds and three blocks.
“After we lost Javion Ogunyemi [in the sectional quarterfinals to an ankle injury], we didn’t have a lot of time to adjust,” said Hurley. “We decided against CBA we’d space the floor and put the ball in Trahmier’s hands, and he was fabulous. He helped Troy get its first Big 10 title, and although we fell a little short against CBA, he did everything we asked of him in that game.”
Burrell, who attended Summit Christian Academy in Detroit as a junior, averaged 5.4 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 2.1 steals this season.
“He’s a Division I player. We’re in the process right now to see where he’s going to go,” said Hurley. “He’s the total package. He has a great feel for the game. He’s a tremendous practice player and game-time performer. He’s also an honor roll student. Someone is going to get a steal.”
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