COHOES — The late-game run Duanesburg used so many times to win basketball games in its history-making season never materialized in Sunday’s Section II Class C/CC playoff with Chatham.
The Panthers made things difficult on the Eagles with their fluctuating zone defenses, and were particularly stingy down the stretch, in a 61-49 victory over the state’s No. 1-ranked team at Cohoes High School.
Duanesburg (23-1) led 40-38 in the matchup between first-time Section II champions in the third quarter after a layup by Jeffrey Mulhern. Chatham (20-4) closed that frame with a 9-2 spurt, and followed with a 14-7 run in the last period to earn a state regional berth.
“We were not able to string stops together,” Duanesburg coach Brett Simpson said. “They never allowed us to go on our prototypical run late in the game.”
Sunday’s intense and physical game was the last in a Duanesburg uniform for seniors Peyton Fall, Owen Lohret, Kyle Williams, Vanz Llamasares, Murphy Hyde and Michael Leak, the Class C tournament MVP.
“As a father I view things differently now,” Simpson said. “I would take those six seniors any day. They’re guys I’d want my son to hang out with. They’re smart. They’re good kids. You don’t get guys like that every year.”
Duanesburg put together its first 20-0 regular season, and along the way earned a trio of Western Athletic Conference firsts with division, overall league and tournament championships. A 58-49 win over Hoosic Valley Friday gave the Eagles their first Section II title, and the recent elevation to No. 1 among the state’s Class C teams was also something new.
“It’s going to take some days and maybe even a year before they realize what they’ve done,” Simpson said. “Later on they’ll walk through that door at Duanesburg and see the first-time sectional banner, and no one can take it away. They have so much to be proud of.”
Duanesburg reached its first title game since 2009 and won it behind Mulhern’s 18 points and Leak’s 16. Section II tourney wins over Berne-Knox-Westerlo and Galway came before that.
“As a player I won a sectional title and lost in the regionals [in 2009],” said Simpson, a Sharon Springs graduate. “What I remember is the sectional championship. I think they will, too.”
Mulhern scored 19 points and the standout sophomore also grabbed 10 rebounds in Duanesburg’s bid for a state tournament spot. Leak scored nine points, Lohret had eight points, six rebounds and three blocked shots, and Fall collected six points, five assists and four steals.
“They’ve had success since they were young,” Simpson, the Eagles’ second-year coach, said of his senior cast. “I caught it at the right time.”
Jacob Baccaro led Chatham with 17 points which included a 3-pointer with 1:22 left that gave the Panthers a 56-49 advantage.
“That was huge for us,” said Baccaro, the Panthers 6-foot-4 senior center. “I was open, and it sealed the deal.”
Baccaro scored eight points in the first quarter to help his team take a 16-15 lead, and he had only one field goal in the middle quarters before netting his final seven points in the last quarter.
“We were worried about their guards shooting threes, and their big guy got us,” Simpson said.
At the other end, Duanesburg managed only three field goals after Mulhern’s basket with 2:38 left in the third had given the Eagles their 40-38 lead.
“They outworked us on the boards and we turned the ball over more than we have all year,” Simpson said. “We battled for 32 minutes. Unfortunately that happens.”
Chatham’s different defenses included a 3-2 zone and a 2-3 zone, and the Panthers collapsed every time an Eagle tried to penetrate.
“We tried to limit their opportunities to penetrate,” Chatham coach John Brantley said. “We wanted to make them shoot from the top and rebound.”
Matt Thorsen scored 14 points for Chatham, Tate Van Alstyne scored four of his 10 in the Panthers’ 9-2 spurt late in the third, and Anthony O’Dell had nine points and eight rebounds. O’Dell’s buzzer-beating 3 lifted Chatham over Stillwater 58-56 in the Section II Class CC title game.
“They feel confident we can win close games,” Brantley said.
Mulhern scored 11 points and Leak had eight in the first half when Duanesburg, on the strength of a closing 11-4 run, took a 30-28 lead.
Duanesburg 15 15 12 7 — 49
Chatham 16 12 19 14 — 61
Duanesburg scoring: Thorsen 6-2-14, Taylor 2-0-4, Chudy 0-2-2, Van Alstyne 3-4-10, O’Dell 2-3-9, Baccaro 7-1-17, Kneller 2-1-5. Duanesburg scoring: Leak 4-1-9, Thompson 1-2-4, Lohret 4-0-8, Fall 3-0-6, Mulhern 7-4-19, Williams 1-0-3. Team totals: Chatham 22-13-61; Duanesburg 20-7-49.
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