GLENS FALLS — The hugs lasted a little longer after Schalmont finally put away a pesky foe Friday night, and finally returned to the top of Section II basketball.
The Sabres saw a 17-point lead reduced to three before a quick spurt and some free throws after lifted them to a 53-46 win over Mechanicville in the Class B championship game at Cool Insuring Arena.
"We got it done," Schalmont coach Greg Loiacono said soon after Jake Sanford's two free throws sewed up the program's first area title since 1996. "The guys had a certain look at school today. They told me they were not losing, and I believed them."
Shane O'Dell secured the Class B tournament MVP award after collecting 22 points, 18 rebounds, seven blocks and three steals in what was his third shot at a Section II championship. Sanford and Austin Redmond were also on the Schalmont teams that lost to Glens Falls in last season's title game, and to Mekeel Christian Academy in the 2018 final.
"It feels amazing. I'm speechless right now," said O'Dell, Schalmont's 6-foot-6 senior leader who scored his team's first 11 points. "Me, Jake and Austin, after losing the last two years, we refused to lose again."
Schalmont put together a key 6-0 spurt to gain separation after Mechanicville (No. 4 seed, 22-2) closed within 40-37 in the fourth quarter. O'Dell started it with a free throw and ended it with a putback basket. In between, Tyler Pepicelli scored on a drive, and Trent Randle sank a foul shot.
"I'm so happy for these guys," Loiacono said, before pointing to the stands that were full of green-clad supporters. "You see all of the older players over there. This was for all of those guys."
Mechanicville coach Rian Richardson couldn't say enough good things about his guys, who couldn't make a basket early in the game, and later, it seemed, couldn't miss.
"At the half, I might have said some things that mom and dad wouldn't like, but I had to wake them up," Richardson said after Mechanicville was denied its first area title since 2012. "We struggled early, but we kept scraping and clawing. My guys will run through walls for me."
All-tournament selection Josh Germain scored 16 points for Mechanicville, including a layup that made it 40-37 midway through the last quarter. Germain, Anthony Attala and Devin Garland had knocked down 3s earlier in the quarter as Mechanicville continued to reduce its deficit.
"It happens. Momentum," Redmond said. "They had it, and we got it back. It was just keeping our heads. We believed in ourselves and came out with a win."
"Everything they were throwing up went in," O'Dell said. "We got stops when it mattered. We got buckets when it mattered."
Redmond gave Schalmont (No. 2, 18-6) a 48-38 lead with 1:55 left on a layup, and went 3-for-4 from the line inside the final minute before Sanford's final two.
"There's nothing else like it," Redmond, who finished with eight points, said. "Great experience."
Sanford made the all-tournament team after scoring 13 points and snaring eight rebounds. The senior gave Schalmont 11-point leads late in the third quarter (34-23) and early in the fourth (37-26) with 3-point hoops.
"Sanford hit some big shots for them," Richardson said.
Mechanicville led 4-2 early on before Schalmont went on a 15-0 run that O'Dell started with nine points and Redmond and Randle finished with 3s. Schalmont led 20-8 after one, 26-10 at the half, and 29-12 moments into the third after Sanford drained a 3.
"They played hard and didn't quit," Loiacono said of Mechanicville. "They hit huge shots. Falling down, falling away, they just kept coming."
An all-tournament pick, Garland scored 13 points before leaving with a facial injury he sustained while driving and drawing a foul with 1:20 left. His replacement, Sean Fitzgerald, came in and his two foul shots got Mechanicville within 48-42. A layup by Jake Bessette soon after nudged Mechanicville a little closer at 48-44, and Schalmont went 5-for-6 from the line afterward.
"Those kids are so special," Richardson said. "It's going to be tough to watch them graduate."
Mechanicville's only other loss came against Class AA Niskayuna in early January.
Mechanicville 8 2 16 20 — 46
Schalmont 20 6 8 19 — 53
Mechanicville scoring: Attala 1-0-3, Fitzgerald 0-2-2, Bessette 1-0-2, Dion 2-2-6, Germain 6-2-16, D'Ambro 2-0-4, Garland 3-5-13. Schalmont scoring: Sanford 3-4-13, Pepicelli 1-0-2, Redmond 2-3-8, Randle 3-1-8, O'Dell 8-6-22. Scoring totals: Mechanicville 15-11-46, Schalmont 17-14-53.