One night after ripping the hearts out of defending state champion Burke Catholic, it was Watervliet’s turn to feel the anguish of a season stopped jarringly short.
After falling behind by 14 points in the third quarter, the Cannoneers came up achingly short, falling to Bishop Ludden, 43-42, Saturday night in the state Class B boys’ basketball championship game at the Glens Falls Civic Center. Watervliet closed to within one point three times during the final minutes, but just couldn’t get over the final hump.
“It just wasn’t our night,” said senior forward Antoine Johnson, who finished with nine points and eight rebounds despite sitting a good portion of the first half with foul trouble. “It just seemed like the ball didn’t want to go in.
“We were executing our game plan, getting the shots and playing defense, but ....”
“It seemed like the ball didn’t want to go in for us pretty much the whole game,” said Orlando DiBacco, who got the Cannoneers to within one basket of their first state title since 1991 in his first year coaching the Colonial Council team. “Our heart showed. We kept on fighting and scratching. I’m proud of them.”
It looked like Watervliet’s chances for a state title were a long shot early Saturday night. Poor shooting, foul trouble and turnovers kept the Cannoneers from getting into a rhythm on offense as they shot 23.1 percent in the first half, missing all 11 of their three-point shots.
“It’s basketball,” said DiBacco. “I thought Bishop Ludden had a good game plan against us. We still fought, went after loose balls, hit the glass.”
The Cannoneers used defensive pressure to make up for a stagnant offense after falling behind, 32-18, early in the third quarter. Water-vliet held the Section III champ scoreless the final 3:09 of the third and forced tournament MVP Ben Hackett to the bench with his fourth foul.
Jordan Gleason’s three-pointer with 3:30 to play not only put the 11th-grader over the 1,000-point mark for his career, it got his team to within 38-35. A minute later, Gleason finished a steal by Jon Parker with a basket that cut the lead to one, 40-39. But that was as close as the Cannoneers could get, as their 21-game winning streak came to an end.
Johnson didn’t blame the em-otional Friday win for his team’s slow start.
“It was a little tough, after a win like that,” he said. “But they played last night, too. I almost feel like we beat ourselves.”
For the game, Watervliet shot 24 percent (14-for-58), and made only two of 25 three-point shots.
Gleason led the team with 16 points, but no other Cannoneer was in double figures. Griffin Kelly had a game-high 14 rebounds.
Johnson and Kelly combined to score eight points as Watervliet ran off a 10-0 run to close the third, leaving the Cannoneers down four, 32-28.
Turnovers, fouls, cold shooting and a missed dunk by Gleason after a steal all added up to a sluggish first half that saw the Cannoneers trail, 24-16, at the break.
Watervliet had a chance to tie the game, 16-16, when Gleason raced ahead of the field after a steal. After elevating, Gleason was long on his dunk attempt.
That miss seemed to give the Gaelic Knights a lift, as they scored the next eight points to take a 24-14 lead. Cameron Littlejohn nailed a trey, Hackett scored, Danny Kaigler made one of two from the line and then closed the run with a basket inside.
“We kept coming back,” said DiBacco. “We just came up one point short. I think last night took a lot out of us, but we put our sneakers back on and gutted it out.”
Tuckahoe, the team that ended Mechanicville’s season in Friday’s Class C semifinal round, completed its run to a state championship by beating Middle College (Section VI), 77-66, finishing 25-0.
Jordan McBride of the Red Raiders was named to the Class C all-tournament team.
Sackets Harbor (Section VI) beat Madrid-Waddington, 49-35, in the Class D championship game.
Littlejohn 3-5-12, Hackett 6-2-14, Kaigler 3-1-7, Walser 2-2-4, Walker 1-0-2, Rogers
2-0-4. Totals: 17-8-43.
Gleason 6-3-16, Johnson 2-4-9, Kelly 3-3-9, McLeod 3-2-8, Brace 0-0-0, Ray 0-0-0, Parker 0-0-0, Ebenhoch 0-0-0. Totals: 14-12-42
Bishop Ludden 8 16 8 11 — 43
Watervliet 6 10 12 14 — 42
Three-point goals: Littlejohn, Gleason, Johnson.