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Mekeel boys' basketball will play for title

Mekeel boys' basketball will play for title

Lions shut down Gloversville in Class A semifinal
Mekeel boys' basketball will play for title
Jonon White and Alex Barnhill of Mekeel defend against Gloversville's Dante Bouchard in Thursday's Class A semifinal game.
Photographer: Erica Miller

GLENS FALLS — The offensive firepower Mekeel Christian Academy displayed Thursday night was balanced and came from all parts of the court, yet the Lions' effort at the defensive end was equally impressive.

Yes, the top Class A seeded team in the Section II boys' basketball tournament does that, too.
 
Steals led to quick baskets by Ozzy DeJesus and Jonon White to begin Mekeel's semifinal game with Gloversville, and the Lions never relented at either end in a 79-53 victory at Cool Insuring Arena.
 
"It's tough to get into a flow against those guys," Gloversville coach Aric Kucel said. "You get by a guy, and you have to deal with their size and length."
 
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Mekeel used its size and quickness to pester Gloversville, which got a combined nine first-half points from senior stars Dante Bouchard and Joey Rowback.
 
"Those two average 50 points a game," Mekeel coach Chad Bowman said. "At the end of the day, we didn't want them to beat us the way they beat so many other teams."
 
Mekeel limited Gloversville to 10 points in each of the first two quarters and 11 in the third while rolling to a 60-31 advantage, in what would be its second lopsided tournament win. Mekeel beat Amsterdam in the quarterfinals 84-49.
 
"I thought our guys did a great job tonight," Bowman said after his Lions limited the Dragons to 39 percent shooting (16 for 41) from the field. "We were aware of where they were. We made it difficult for them to get good looks."
 
Mekeel set the tone right from the start with its effective, help-oriented 2-3 zone defense .
 
"We just came out energetic. We wanted it bad," said Mekeel junior Alex Barnhill. "Our goal is to get three stops in a row, and that's how we started."
 
The game started to get away from Gloversville (No. 4 seed, 19-4) in the second quarter when Mekeel put together a 10-1 run to go up 26-11.
 
"It was not the start we wanted," Kucel said. "Credit to them. They came out ready to play. It wasn't so much what we were doing wrong, but what they were doing right."
 
"Coach told us before the game we had to come out with high intensity," said White, a junior who made an impact at both ends. "We had to come out strong."
 
Mekeel (19-2) will take on Lansingburgh (No. 3, 19-3) Saturday at 12:45 p.m. in search of its second area championship in three years. Barnhill was the sixth man on the Mekeel team that won the Section II Class B flag in 2018 as a springboard to the state crown.
 
"Each team wants to leave their own legacy," Bowman said. "Al was on that team, but this is new for everyone else."
 
"I've been waiting for this since I was little," White said.
 
Both Mekeel and Gloversville had their 2018-19 seasons ended by Troy, Mekeel in the Class A semifinals, and Gloversville in the title game that followed.
 
"That loss, there's no feeling like that," Barnhill said. "We did not want to have that feeling again."
 
Lansingburgh defeated Averill Park earlier Thursday 55-48.
 
"Lansingburgh is a great team. Well coached. Organized. Great kids," Bowman said. "We're excited to play them."
 
Barnhill scored 23 points to lead Mekeel, White had 20, DeJesus finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds, and Ricky Rollins added 13 points. Of the Lions 27 field goals, 23 of them were assisted, with White collecting seven of them.
 
"The kids really shared the ball well tonight," Bowman said after his team shot 57 percent (27 for 47) from the field. "They set each other up."
 
Bouchard scored 13 of his 17 points in the second half, and the senior concluded his career with 2,085 points which are tied for 10th place on the all-time Section II list with Watervliet graduate Kevin Yanni. Argyle senior Peyton Lufkin, who will play in Saturday's Class D final, is right behind with 2,072 career points.
 
Rowback scored 15 points in his final high school game, and fellow Gloversville senor Kayden Ruggeri had 12 points, seven rebounds and five assists.
 
"This had been some of the best years of my life coaching these seniors," said Kucel, who will lose seven 12th-graders to graduation. "They've done so much for me. They've done so much for the community. They've done so much for the Gloversville basketball program. I cannot thank those kids enough."
 
Lansingburgh used a late 9-0 run to gain separation from Averill Park in a tense game that saw eight lead changes and five ties. Isaiah Knight broke the last of those ties with two free throws to put the Knights up 41-39 and kick-start the 9-0 push.
 
"I told my guys the last five or six minutes are going to dictate the game," Lansingburgh coach Eric Loudis said. "We have some experience here, and in the end the guys came through."
 
Lansingburgh forced 19 turnovers as part of its win, while on the offensive end Knight scored 14 points, Vinny Tario netted 13 and Quashawn McFarlane had 12.
 
"We knew we weren't shooting that great. We had to make up for it with hard defense," said Knight, a senior guard who had four of his team's 12 steals. "We had to turn it up and dig deep."
 
Jack Long paced Averill Park (No. 2, 14-8) with 18 points, going 4-for-7 on 3s, and Matt Lettko had 14 rebounds, three blocks and five assists to go with four points. Long's 3-pointer tied the contest at 39.
 
Both teams made their last title-game appearance in 2017 when Lansingburgh edged Averill Park in overtime for the Class A championship. With Thursday's loss, Averill Park was denied a shot at its first area title since in 2006.
 
MEKEEL CHRISTIAN ACADEMY 79, GLOVERSVILLE 53
Gloversville 10 10 11 22 — 53
Mekeel 16 18 26 19 — 79
Gloversville scoring: Bouchard 4-7-17, Hunt 0-1-1, Ruggeri 4-0-12, Getman 1-0-3, Warner 1-0-2, Rowback 5-4-15, Glionna 1-0-3.  Mekeel scoring: Rollins 4-4-13, DeJesus 8-1-17, Roddy 2-0-6, Barnhill 7-5-23, White 6-5-20. Scoring totals: Gloversville 16-12-53, Mekeel 27-15-79.
 
LANSINGBURGH 55, AVERILL PARK 48
Lansingburgh 6 14 15 20 — 55
Averill Park 10 11 9 18 — 48
Lansingburgh scoring: Allison 2-3-8, McFarlane 4-4-12, Knight 3-8-14, Tario 3-7-13, Wallace 4-0-8. Averill Park scoring: Pascarella 3-0-9, Romer 4-0-10, Lettko  0-4-4, Long 6-2-18, Carucci 1-0-3, Re 1-2-4. Scoring totals: Lansingburgh 16-22-55, Averill Park 15-8-48.

Reach Jim Schiltz at 518-395-3143, [email protected] or @jim_schiltz on Twitter.
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