SCOTIA — The text messages and emails started to pour in late Saturday night after the grueling state title win against Seton Catholic. More came Sunday, and even more Monday and Tuesday.
“The cool thing is hearing from so many people,” Mekeel Christian Academy head master and boys’ basketball coach Chad Bowman said. “I’ve gotten emails literally from all over the world.”
Fellow coaches and administrators, former players and friends, and even three companies that manufacture commemorative rings have directed messages Bowman’s way in the wake of Mekeel’s first New York State Public High School Athletic Association title in any sport.
Bowman noted one in particular from John Richmond, who was his first 1,000-point scorer when Mekeel was still Schenectady Christian School and had yet to make a significant impact on basketball courts in Section II and beyond.
“He was part of my first win here in 1993,” Bowman said.
That was 399 wins ago.
Bowman reached 400 wins Saturday night, when his Lions beat the Saints from Binghamton 42-37 for the state Class B championship at Floyd L. Maines Veterans Memorial Arena. It was the seventh postseason win for the Lions, and their 24th overall this season, one shy of the school record set by the 2007 team that reached the state Class C final four.
Bowman was insistent in the post-game celebration that Dan McCarty, Gideon Agbo, Jordan Jackson, Deonte Holder, Carter Stewart and the rest of his crew got the spotlight, that the night was about a New York title and fulfilling a quest. He deflected talk of his own milestone.
“That’s Chad. Do good for others,” said former Scotia-Glenville coach Jim Giammattei, a good friend of the Mekeel mentor. “He believes he is there to serve.”
Bowman joined an elite list of 400-game winners from Section II, including Giammattei, who stepped down after the 2016-17 season with that exact number of victories. Bowman got there in his 24th season with the program (he did not coach in 1999-2000), and with his 23rd team with a winning record.
“He works his craft and he has a passion for it,” Giammattei said. “Countless hours of preparation. Countless hours of individual work. Countless hours of scouting. Tons of hours. Tons of sacrifice.”
Giammattei said Bowman did some of his finest coaching work this season. He played an independent schedule for the first time, one that included teams of higher classification, and put extra emphasis on defense and rebounding. His Lions bought in all the way, and those things proved huge down the playoff stretch, especially when shots didn’t fall.
“They were not just a jump shot team,” Giammattei said. “They looked like a different team. When what you were doing before isn’t working, you’ve got to change some things. To me, that’s the sign of a good coach.”
Bowman ‘s 399th win came in double overtime, when Mekeel outlasted Briarcliff Manor 68-61 in the state semifinals. Win No. 398 was a difficult test, as well, when the Lions rallied in the fourth quarter for a 53-47 regional victory over Canton.
“We played some teams that defended us well,” Bowman said. “We didn’t have the offense going as well as we would have liked, and we found ways to win. We defended as hard as we could and won rebounding battles. These kids got tough.”
The Lions topped Schalmont (69-59), Watervliet (62-53), Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons (98-52) and Johnstown (82-51) in the sectionals, where in 2017 they lost to Glens Falls in the final. Sectional semifinal and quarterfinal defeats came in the two years before that.
“It’s so hard to get out of our section,” Bowman said. “It’s such a gauntlet to win the state. You’re seeing different teams and different styles. Different schemes on offense and defense. That’s what makes it such an awesome journey, and so satisfying at the end.”
Mekeel (24-3) gave Schenectady County another NYSPHSAA title to go with the two by Giammattei’s teams in 2014 and 2015, the two by Schenectady in 1998 and 2001, and the one by Niskayuna in 1978. Mekeel is headed to Cool Insuring Arena in Glens Falls this weekend for the New York Federation Tournament of Champions.
“It hasn’t sunk in yet,” Bowman said. “After the Federation stuff we’ll sit back and think,, ‘That was really something.’ We still have to stay focused through the weekend.”
Mekeel will play Regis (19-8, CHSAA) Saturday at 10:45 a.m. in a Federation semifinal, following the Fannie Lou Hamer (27-4, PSAL)-Lawrence Woodmere (20-5, NYAIS) semi at 9 a.m. The Class B title game is Sunday at 2 p.m.
Two-time defending Class A Federation champ Albany Academy (14-6, NYAIS) meets Brooklyn Law and Tech (27-3, PSAL) Saturday at 12:30 p.m. Park School (23-5, CHSAA) and Amityville (27-1, NYSPHSAA) play the other Class A semi afterward at 2:15 p.m. Sunday’s title game is set for 4 p.m.
Reach Gazette Sportswriter Jim Schiltz at 518-395-3143, [email protected] or @jim_schiltz on Twitter.
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Categories: High School Sports, Sports