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State champ Mekeel drops Federation final

State champ Mekeel drops Federation final

Final furious run falls short
State champ Mekeel drops Federation final
Mekeel teammates Jordan Jackson, Gideon Agbo and Carter Stewart sit on the bench after their Class B Federation tournament game.
Photographer: ERICA MILLER/GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER

GLENS FALLS -- Mekeel Christian Academy's historic basketball season ended with a run, but it wasn't put together by the Lions.

Theirs came just before a late burst by Fannie Lou Hamer in a final gasp to make a little more history.

"No doubt we were chasing the game," Mekeel coach Chad Bowman said after Sunday's 74-62 loss in the Class B title game of the New York State Federation Tournament of Champions at Cool Insuring Arena. "They showed so much poise and character to get back in it."

Mekeel went on a 13-3 run to take its first lead of the second half, before the Panthers from the Bronx ended the title tilt with the game's last 13 points.

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"It's irritating, honestly," Fannie Lou Hamer senior Charles Davis, the tourney MVP, said of Mekeel's will throughout the contest. "They're a really good team. We knew they'd come to fight."

That they did, taking a 62-61 lead with 3:25 left on a layup by Gideon Agbo, after trailing by nine early in the fourth quarter (58-49), and by as many as 14 early in the third (41-27).

"We came back and got up by one, and they made another tough shot," Mekeel senior Jordan Jackson said after a 29-point performance. "Coach told us to keep fighting, and we did, and they just executed."

"They hit big shots down the stretch, inside and outside," Bowman said. "Tip your hat. Today's story is about them. Our story is about our season and what [the players] did."

Fannie Lou Hamer beat Lawrence Woodmere in Saturday's semifinals 42-39 before Mekeel's 76-50 victory over Regis. That was the Mekeel's eighth playoff win. The week before, the Lions captured the school's first New York State Public High School Athletic Association title in any sport, and in the weeks before that they secured the program's second regional and Section II flags.

"This [loss] will fade away pretty fast," Bowman said. "The things they did before will live forever."

Mekeel (25-4) left a pretty good lasting impression with its fourth-quarter rally, after FLH (29-4, Public Schools Athletic League) went up 58-49 on two free throws by Davis. Davis finished with 19 points.

Mekeel's counter started with a layup by Carter Stewart and ended when Deonte Holder fed Agbo. In between, the Lions senior trio of Jackson, Stewart and Holder hit 3-pointers.

"We just got done saying to our seniors what they did for our program," Bowman said. "They set the bar for everyone else. They showed what can be done when you work hard."

Stewart and Holder played four varsity seasons, and endured quarterfinal, semifinal and title-game setbacks in the Section II tournament before this year's four wins, capped by a triumph over Schalmont.

"It was a great season," said Stewart, who scored nine points. "We did what we wanted to accomplish, and that was win sectionals. We won states and kept going. We wanted to get it done this weekend, but we got what we wanted most."

Holder scored 15 points and Agbo, an all-tourney pick with Jackson, had seven points and eight rebounds. Tyree Morris led FLH with 23 points and made the all-tourney team, and Anthony Rose had 14 points and six rebounds.

Rose gave FLH a 63-62 lead with a layup right after Agbo's hoop at the other end, Morris sank two free throws to pad the Panthers' advantage. Rose scored on a layup before Jaquan Mack's 3-pointer. Those hoops were part of a 60 percent shooting effort by FLH (26-for-43).

"We played good defense, and they were hitting tough shots," Stewart said.

Mekeel showed that it was not going to go away when FLH opened up a 27-16 lead in the second quarter.  Mekeel, the state's No. 1 team, went on an 11-2 run that included seven of Jackson's 16 first-half points.

Mekeel had not lost to a Class B team before Sunday. Albany Academy was one of the teams to beat the Lions back in mid-December.

"It was great battling with my brothers all year," Jackson said. "We competed."

MEKEEL CHRISTIAN ACADEMY

Jackson 11-3-29, Holder 4-4-15, Car. Stewart 3-2-9, Barnhill 1-0-2, Agbo 3-1-7. Totals: 22-10-62.

FANNIE LOU HAMER

Davis 7-4-19, Mack 2-2-7, Morris 7-4-23, Rose 6-2-14, Williams 4-2-10, Bennett 0-1-1. Totals: 26-15-74.

Mekeel 12 15 22 13 - 62

Fannie Lou Hamer 19 14 18 23 - 74

Three-point goals: Jackson 4, Holder 3, Car. Stewart, Davis, Mack, Morris 5.

Reach Gazette Sportswriter Jim Schiltz at 518-395-3143, jims@dailygazette.com or @Jim_schiltz on Twitter.

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