Mekeel Christian Academy got the tough sectional prep it was looking for and another championship, too.
After a potential runaway win got tight, Courtney Penson scored four of the Lions’ final five points in a 57-54 win over the host Dragons Saturday in the final of the Gloversville Holiday Tournament.
The three-point margin was the closest in Mekeel’s 14-game victory streak, which included a 95-80 triumph over Amsterdam in the first round in late December before weather forced the postponement of the finals.
The Lions completed their title-winning run through the Western Athletic Conference Southern Division Friday with a 64-21 thumping of Middleburgh.
“This was great for us getting ready for the sectionals,” said Mekeel coach Chad Bowman, whose team reached the Class B semifinals last season. “We got down a few times. We got the feel of being in a close game.
“We had to make plays, and I don’t mean only scoring points. Getting loose balls and getting tipped balls, we got enough to get through.”
Junior forward Ohieno Miller played a key role for the Lions
(14-2), with his eight rebounds, five points and his defense that included two charging calls, a steal and a blocked shot. Miller’s free throw with 34 seconds left gave the Lions a 55-54 lead. Penson scored on a drive just before and on two foul shots afterward.
“Miller’s work rate was sensational,” said Bowman. “He had a monster performance, in terms of sweat equity.”
Caleb Stewart, Herbie Sexton and Penson scored 12 points apiece to lead Mekeel. The 57 points were the fewest during its lengthy winning streak.
“We had great defense tonight,” said Penson, a senior guard whose totals coming off the bench included four rebounds, two assists and two steals. “We would not have won the game without defense.”
“It was not a great night for us, offensively. You’re not going to outscore everyone every night, but we created a lot of turnovers,” said Bowman, whose Lions were 13-for-22 from the line. “We played good defense, and when we needed a stop, we got one.”
The Lions buckled down after Miller’s go-ahead free throw, and in their 2-3 zone, forced the Dragons to throw the ball out of bounds. That led to Penson’s two free throws with 10 seconds left, and after Keyshawn Arnold missed a three, Dan Alteri grabbed his ninth rebound to end it.
“Two things killed us. We turned the ball over too many times, and on 50-50 balls, they won 80 to 90 percent of them,” said Gloversville coach Mark LeFever. “Those are two areas we have to become better at. We’ll continue to work at it.”
Gloversville picked up its defensive intensity after Mekeel used a 16-7 first-quarter run to go up, 20-13. The Dragons limited the Lions to six second-quarter points and only one basket before Miller’s buzzer-beating layup, and put up 15 points of their own, led by Kevin Johnston’s eight.
“We needed to step up defensively,” said LeFever. “I challenged them after the first quarter. I told them, ‘We can’t give up 20 points in a quarter.’ We made sure we contested shots, and our guys inside banged hard.”
Stewart triggered Mekeel’s big first quarter with three three-point baskets, but afterward, the team’s leader managed just a free throw and a layup early in the final period.
Penson and Sexton scored nine points apiece in the second half, and Mano Senthil netted seven of his nine over the last two quarters.
Sexton’s free throw tied the game at 52-52 and Penson followed with a successful drive. After Chris Rockefeller sank a short jumper for the Dragons with 67 seconds left, Penson gobbled up a loose ball after a miss, fed Miller down low, and Miller made the second of two free throws after drawing a foul.
Marcus Pritchard and Zach Dufel scored 12 and 11 points, respectively, in Amsterdam’s 69-51 consolation win over Fonda-Fultonville. Will Turner paced the Braves with 28.
MEKEEL CHRISTIAN 57, GLOVERSVILLE
Alteri 1-0-2, Bath 2-0-5, Penson 3-4-12, Stewart 4-1-12, Miller 2-1-5, Senthil 3-3-9, Sexton 4-4-12. Totals: 19-13-57.
Brown 1-1-4, Barnhill 5-0-14, Rockefeller 3-4-11, Dukes 2-0-4, Johnston 3-0-8, Goodwin 1-0-2, K. Arnold 3-5-11. Totals: 18-10-54.
Mekeel Christian 20 6 14 17 — 57
Gloversville 13 15 9 17 — 54
Three-point goals: Bath, Penson 2, Stewart 3, Brown, Barnhill 4, Rockefeller, Johnston 2.
AMSTERDAM 69, FONDA-FULTONVILLE 51
Sammons 1-0-2, Calkins 1-0-2, Madore 1-0-2, Derby 6-1-17, Turner 11-5-28. Totals: 20-6-51.
Rouse 3-0-8, Druziak 2-2-7, Martin 3-1-8, Robertshaw 1-0-3, Laboy 3-0-9, Hardies 0-2-2, Carr 1-0-2, Sherlock 2-0-4, Dufel 4-0-11, Pritchard 6-0-12, Springs 1-1-3. Totals: 26-6-69.
Fonda-Fulton. 14 15 10 12 — 51
Amsterdam 18 14 16 21 — 69
Three-point goals: Derby 4, Turner, Druziak, Rouse 2, Martin, Robershaw, Laboy 3, Dufel 3.