GLENS FALLS — You win championships with defense.
You can win semifinal games that way, too, like Shenendehowa did Tuesday night with a stifling display against Christian Brothers Academy.
Chris Hulbert played the stopper and Abbas Merchant anchored the offense, and the Plainsmen earned a chance to go after their third Section II Class AA title in four years with a 48-40 win at Cool Insuring Arena.
“I’ve coached Chris since he was in sixth grade and known him since he was in second grade,” Shenendehowa coach Tony Dzikas said. “He goes hard all the time in everything he does.”
Tuesday night his job was to deny CBA scoring leader Jordan King, and he did it well. King managed one missed shot in the first half and four points total, those coming early in the third quarter when the junior standout hit a free throw and a 3-pointer.
King finished 1-for-7 from the field, 1-for-5 on 3-point attempts.
“He’s a super player,” Hulbert said of King, who came in averaging nearly 15 points per game. “He had 27 points and seven threes in their last game. If he did that, it would have been a tough one for us.”
It wasn’t easy by any means, yet Hulbert’s effort certainly lightened the load as the Plainsmen (No. 2 seed, 18-4) set up a title game with Colonie (No. 4, 19-4) Saturday at 6 p.m. here. The Garnet Raiders rallied in the fourth quarter to end Saratoga Springs’ 19-game win streak 48-41.
“My job was to stay with King in our box-and-one,” Hulbert said. “My teammates helped me out on screens. He never got open looks.”
“Chris did a wonderful job on King,” Merchant said. “He didn’t give him an inch.”
Merchant led Shenendehowa with 18 points, nine rebounds and four assists. The junior guard delivered six points in the first quarter when Shenendehowa was building a 15-6 lead, and contributed seven in the final frame when the Plainsmen secured their second win against the Brothers (No. 3, 19-4).
“We moved the ball well,” Merchant said. “We weren’t settling for first shots. When they did something, we responded well.”
CBA never led, but never went away, either, and got within 33-32 early in the fourth on a layup by Andrew Signor. Shenendehowa answered with an 8-0 run that included 3-pointers by Hulbert and Merchant sandwiched around a Josh Nails layup.
CBA ended the third quarter with its own 8-0 run to get within 31-30, a spree highlighted by Adam Zebrowski’s buzzer-beating 3-point banker.
TJ Sangare had 10 points and 10 rebounds for Shenendehowa, and Hulbert added eight points. His 3-pointer gave Shenendehowa a 31-22 lead in the third quarter.
“We hardly ever have a great offensive night,” Dzikas said. “That’s our team, but we battle and somehow win games.”
Signor had 12 points for CBA, and Pete O’Toole had 11 points and nine rebounds. CBA was looking to get back to the final where it enjoyed great success not too long ago. The Brothers made 10 straight title-game appearances from 2003 through 2012 and won seven championships as well as a state flag. The Brothers lost in semifinals in 2013 and 2016, that one against Shenendehowa.
Colonie went on a 22-8 fourth-quarter surge to beat Saratoga in a wild back-and-forth game that started with an 11-2 run by the Garnet Raiders and included a 21-3 flurry by the Blue Streaks in the second frame.
“At the half, it was quiet,” Colonie junior Aaron Satin said. “The thought was, ‘This is the last chance for the seniors to get there and get the chip.’ We huddled up and made a choice.”
Satin hit two of the biggest shots of the game, back-to-back 3-pointers, that erased a 35-31 Colonie deficit in the fourth quarter. Josh Aybar followed with another 3-ball to give Colonie a 40-35 advantage with 2:44 left.
“Thank God, we came alive with those threes,” Colonie coach Ken Dagostino said.
Will Aybar scored 15 points for Colonie, which lost to Bethlehem 57-45 in the 2017 large-school final. Isaiah Moll had 13 points and 10 rebounds, and Satin had 10 points and four assists.
“We wanted it bad,” said Moll, who scored six points in the last quarter with three foul shots inside the final minute. “We wanted to get back to the championship.”
After Colonie got within two twice in the third, Saratoga (No. 1, 19-3) closed that quarter with a 7-2 spurt to take a 33-26 lead. Colonie had one last gasp, and earned a chance to nap the school’s first area title since 2000.
“Out of all the teams, we wanted to play Saratoga,” Satin said. “When we played them earlier, we were up 10 in the fourth quarter and they did the same thing to us.”
Matt Larkin had 14 points for Saratoga, Nick Chudy scored 12, and Brian Hart collected 10 points and 10 rebounds. Chudy nailed three 3-pointers in the second quarter, and his fourth trey started the 7-2 run in the third quarter.
Saratoga hasn’t reached a title game since 1988 when the Blue Streaks beat Shenendehowa. Saratoga’s last semifinal appearance in 2007 resulted in a loss to Bishop Maginn.
SHENENDEHOWA 48, CBA 40
King 1-1-4, O’Toole 5-1-11, Boyan 1-03, Caulfield 1-0-3, Wasula 2-0-4, Zebrowski 1-0-3, Signor 4-4-12. Totals: 15-6-40.
Nails 2-0-4, Merchant 5-5-18, Hulbert 3-0-8, Monroe 1-0-2, Sangare 4-1-10, Altenburger 2-2-6. Totals: 17-8-48.
CBA 6 12 12 10 – 40
Shenendehowa 15 10 6 17 – 48
Three-point goals: King, Boyan, Caulfield, Zebrowski, Merchant 3, Hulbert 2, Sangare.
COLONIE 48, SARATOGA SPRINGS 41
J. Aybar 2-3-8, Young 1-0-2, Satin 3-2-10, W. Aybar 5-2-15, Moll 4-5-13. Totals: 15-12-48.
Larkin 4-4-14, Hart 5-0-10, Holmes 2-1-5, Ni. Chudy 4-0-12. Totals: 15-5-41.
Colonie 11 3 12 22 – 48
Saratoga Springs 2 21 10 8 – 41
Three-point goals: J. Aybar, Satin 2, W. Aybar 3, Larkin 2, Ni. Chudy 4.