TROY — In the fourth quarter, it all fell in place for Mekeel Christian Academy.
Deonte Holder scored half of his 16 points in that last frame, and Carter Stewart and Jordan Jackson shined at the defensive end, as the Lions rallied for a 53-47 Class B regional win over Canton Saturday at Hudson Valley Community College.
“We were going to have to execute,” Mekeel coach Chad Bowman said after the Lions first regional victory since 2007. “It seems like it’s always the team that gets it done at the defensive end.”
That was Mekeel (22-3), which went on a closing 19-7 run after falling behind 40-34 against Canton (Section X, 22-4), a team that has good size and plenty of big-game experience.
“They were coming off a state finals run, and didn’t lose a lot,” Stewart said. “They’re a good team. They move the ball well and have good finishers.”
Stewart and Jackson took them away with the game in the balance. Declan Porter went without a point after netting 17 through the first three quarters. Andy Downs scored five of his 11 points in the last quarter, but none after his 3 gave the Golden Bears a 45-43 edge with 4:30 left.
“We had to come out with something new,” said Stewart, who went one-on-one with Porter in a matchup of 6-foot-6 standouts. “It was an on-the-fly defensive plan. We came up with the plan and had to execute.”
“”Three [Porter] and 11 [Downs] were the key guys we had to X out,” Holder said. “We made other guys make plays, and that hurt them.”
A quick spurt swung momentum Mekeel’s way, and the Lions never let the lead get away. It started with a foul shot by Gideon Agbo that got Mekeel within 45-44. Stewart sank a 3-pointer, and Jackson turned a steal into two foul shots.
“In big games it’s, ‘Who is going to make the big play?'” Bowman said. “In big games, it comes down to offense, defense, offense.”
Holder scored six points in a 9-2 run to begin the fourth quarter, and Holder and Stewart both sank two free throws in the final 20 seconds.
“In the third quarter they made a nice run on us,” Holder said. “In the last two minutes we started attacking, and we took that into the fourth quarter.”
Canton had closed the third period with an 11-4 run that included Porter’s final points, on a layup and two foul shots.
“That’s the key with this team, to not get down on ourselves,” said Stewart, a senior who finished with 16 points. “Not strangle ourselves.”
Mekeel entered the game with a No. 1 state rank, just as Glens Falls did last year when the Indians lost to Canton in the regionals.
“They physically took it to Glens Falls,” Bowman said of Canton. “They were not overwhelmed coming here at all.”
Mekeel is heading to the state final four to play Briarcliff Friday at 6:45 p.m. at Floyd L. Maines Arena in Binghamton.
“It was a process,” Holder, a four-year varsity player, said after snaring nine rebounds to go with his 16 points. “The first year we lost in the second round [of the sectionals]. The second year is was the semifinals. Third year it was in the championship game. Now we’re going to states.”
Agbo had 11 points and nine rebouds in the game, which included 14 lead changes.
Haenel 1-0-3, Porter 7-3-17, Downs 4-1-11, Lorenc 1-2-4, Sipher 4-4-12. Totals: 17-10-47.
MEKEEL CHRISTIAN ACADEMY
Jackson 2-3-8, Holder 3-7-16, Stewart, 4-6-16, McCarty 1-0-2, Agbo 5-1-11. Totals: 15-17-53.
Canton 9 16 15 7 – 47
Mekeel 12 14 8 19 – 53
Three-point goals: Haenel, Downs 2, Jackson, Holder 3, Stewart 2.
Reach Gazette Sportswriter Jim Schltz at 518-395-3143, [email protected] or @jim_schiltz on Twitter.
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Categories: High School Sports, Sports