“That’s us. That’s what we do. We play defense,” Albany Academy coach Brian Fruscio said after his team surrendered single digits in three of the quarters and 12 field goals in all. “My coaching idols are [former Watervliet coach George] Mardigan, [Saint Rose coach Brian) Beaury and [Michigan State coach Tom] Izzo. All defensive guys. We played a little Sparty today.
“We challenged shots. We grinded and boxed out.”
Albany Academy switched from one set to another in its second defensive gem in as many days after beating Nazareth in the semifinals, 43-40. Saturday’s triumph made Albany Academy (16-4, Association of Independent Schools Athletic Association) just the second Capital Region boys’ team to secure a Federation championship, following Watervliet in 1991 (Class C).
“Coach told us to be ready for any call,” said senior guard Darrien White, the Class A MVP who finished with 10 points, four assists and three steals. “It was execute, execute.”
“We’d play zone for a couple of passes, and then we’d switch to man,” said Fruscio. “We did that a lot today, and it slowed them down.”
Paul Johnson led Queens-based John Adams (25-6, Public School Athletic League) with 20 points, but went 6-for-19 from the field. John Adams was 12-for-56 from the field overall, and 3-for-21 from three-point range.
“This is the toughest team we played against during our run. They locked us up,” said Johnson, a senior guard. “We thought we were just going to run past them. That wasn’t the case.”
“That’s what we’ve been doing all year,” said junior guard John Moutopoulos, who had 10 points, six rebounds and two of the Cadets’ eight steals. “They say defense wins championships. That was evident the last two games.”
Albany Academy turned five of its steals directly into baskets. White had the last of those impact thefts with 5:55 left in the fourth quarter, and while sprawled at midcourt, he fired a bounce pass to a streaking Jack Morrow. Morrow’s layup made it 38-27, and Moutopoulos went 6-for-6 from the line to help the Cadets close it out.
“Some of our steals were part of their frustration,” said Fruscio. “They were trying to run through our guys.”
All-tournament pick Marcus Jackson played a significant two-way role with 13 points on 5-for-7 shooting and 13 rebounds, including 11 at the defensive end. The 6-foot-8 junior center also blocked two shots and altered several others.
“Getting stops was the key to the game,” said Moutopoulos. “We knew we could score.”
Morrow sank a three-point basket to cap a 7-0 game-starting spurt for Academy, and Matt Knezovic’s three ended an 8-0 run as the Cadets built a 15-5 lead. Those were the only outside shots the Cadets made.
“They were playing a 3-2 matchup zone and coming out on our shooters,” said Moutopoulos. “We took what the defense gave us.”
“Coach told us to go to the basket strong and get layups,” said White. “Get layups or get fouled trying.”
White and Ray Jerome both turned a steal into a layup early in the second quarter to help Academy open up a 19-7 advantage. John Adams got within 23-18 at the half when Johnson netted eight points in an 11-4 run.
A three-point play by Justin Cotto pulled John Adams within 25-21 in the third period, and Academy ended the quarter with a 9-4 spurt in which White scored on two drives, one coming after a steal.
“That’s part of championship basketball,” said Fruscio. “Good teams are going to make runs. They made theirs, and our guys didn’t panic.”
Morrow, who had seven points Saturday and made a last-second three to beat Nazareth, was named to the all-tournament team.
Albany Academy went over a month without playing a game before its Federation sweep. The Cadets beat Saint Mary of Long Island on Feb. 16, 76-57, and had a bye in the AISAA tournament because there were no other Class A teams to compete against.
“Aidan Howley, our strength and conditioning guy, did an unbelievable job during our layoff. He helped us get quicker. He helped our camaraderie. He helped us get stronger,” said Fruscio. “If we get rings, I’ll make sure he gets one.”
Isaiah Thomas led four double-digit scorers with 21 points, and Fannie Lou Hamer rallied late to beat Watervliet in a Class B semifinal, 72-60, ending the Cannoneers’ hopes for a second Federation title.
Jordan Gleason paced Watervliet (18-9, New York State Public High School Athletic Association) with 20 points and nine rebounds, Tyler McLeod had 18 points, and freshman Ty’Jon Gilmore closed out his strong postseason with 16 points, six rebounds and three steals.
Watervliet was up heading into the final quarter, 43-42, before the Bronx-based Trailblazers (29-3, PSAL) put together a 30-17 push.
Thomas was 6-for-6 from the line as part of FLH’s 20-for-27 effort, and sank a trio of three-point hoops.
Jimeek Conyers had 14 points and five assists for Fannie Lou Hamer, Kenny Bonaparte and Michael Castillo netted 14 and 12, respectively, and Corey Morgan collected 11 rebounds and three blocks to go with seven points.
TROY GIRLS BOW
Defensive heavyweight Long Island Lutheran shut down Troy for three quarters in a 62-45 Class A championship-game win.
The Lady Crusaders (21-4, AISAA) of Brookville all but sealed their second Federation title in three years with a 25-8 third quarter run that made it 59-26.
All-tournament pick Kiana Patterson had 15 points for Troy (21-6), which saw its eight-game postseason streak halted, and Cheyenne Williams came away with nine points and nine rebounds. While Patterson was 5-for-8 shooting from the field, the rest of the Flying Horses were a combined 10-for-31. Troy also turned the ball over 30 times against the Lady Crusaders’ pressure defense.
Tourney MVP Boogie Brozoski had 14 points and five of LI Lutheran’s 20 steals, Katie Lavelle had 13 points and five thefts, and Stacy Barrett totaled 12 points and 11 rebounds.
Troy made its only previous Federation appearance in 1989.
ALBANY ACADEMY 50, JOHN ADAMS 34
Jackson 5-3-13, White 4-2-10, Moutopoulos 2-6-10, Morrow 2-2-7, Donohoe 1-0-2, Knezovic 1-0-3, Jerome 2-1-5. Totals: 17-14-50.
Kone 1-0-3, Johnson 6-6-20, French 3-0-6, Wilson 1-0-2, Cotto 1-1-3. Totals: 12-7-34.
Albany Academy 15 8 11 16 — 50
John Adams 5 13 7 9 — 34
Three-point goals: Morrow, Knezovic, Kone, Johnson 2.
FANNIE LOU HAMER 72, WATERVLIET 60
FANNIE LOU HAMER
Castillo 4-3-11, Morgan 3-1-7, Bonaparte 3-3-12, Conyers 5-3-14, Crespo 1-3-6, Norales 0-1-1, Thomas 6-6-21. Totals: 22-20-72.
McLeod 6-3-18, Ray 2-0-4, Gleason 8-2-20, Gilmore 7-0-16, McConico 0-2-2. Totals: 23-7-60.
F.L. Hamer 9 14 19 30 — 72
Watervliet 18 6 19 17 — 60
Three-point goals: Bonaparte 3, Conyers, Crespo, Thomas 3, McLeod 3, Gleason 2, Gilmore 2.
LONG ISLAND LUTHERAN 62, TROY 45
Knockwood 2-0-4, Williams 4-1-9, Pattison 2-3-8, Patterson 5-2-15, Avery 2-3-8, Hanlon 0-1-1. Totals: 15-10-45.
LONG ISLAND LUTHERAN
Gibbons 2-1-5, Barrett 4-4-12, Redford 2-2-6, Lavelle 5-3-13, Brozoski 6-1-14, Hilaire 1-0-2, Byrne 3-1-7, Atali 1-0-2, Cooper 0-1-1. Totals: 24-13-62.
Troy 5 13 8 19 — 45
LI Lutheran 14 20 25 3 — 62
Three-point goals: Pattison, Patterson 3, Avery, Brozoski.