GLENS FALLS — Junior reserve guard Paris Banks was eager to see more time after a quick first-half run, but figured he probably wouldn't if the Section II Class A boys' basketball title game between Mekeel Christian Academy and Lansingburgh was close at the end.
But when Mekeel junior star Alex Barnhill fouled out with 3:02 left and his team up by four, Banks got the call. Soon after, he was part of the most significant play in Saturday's 74-67 win at Cool Insuring Arena.
Talk about a lasting memory.
"It feels great to be a part of this," said Banks, whose stat line included one missed field goal and a 2-for-4 showing from the foul line. "I was ready no matter what."
Mekeel coach Chad Bowman felt he was ready, too, after gradually working his way up the team's depth chart.
"He has emerged in the last half of the season," Bowman said. "He has worked hard in practice. He has worked hard in the classroom. The last seven or eight games he earned his playing time."
"When I get out there I try to play my best defense and take care of the ball," Banks said.
Banks gave Mekeel a couple of important points, too, going 1-for-2 twice from the line with the title game still up for grabs. His foul shot's gave Mekeel leads of 66-60 with 1:30 left and 69-64 with 47.1 seconds remaining.
"My first shot was way off, but the second one, I knew it was good," Banks said. "That second time [at the line] I made the first and then rimmed it in and out, and Ozzy made that play."
Ozzy DeJesus snared an offensive rebound after Banks' miss, scored while drawing a foul, and the senior's foul shot had the Lions up by eight and on their way to a second Section II championship in three years.
"I thought it was over at that point," Banks said.
Bowman thought Banks handled himself quite well in a spot he had never been.
"There was a lot of pressure," Bowman said. "He did a good job. He defended well."
"He gives us energy coming off the bench," Barnhill, the Class A tournament most valuable player, said of his teammate.
Mekeel junior Jonon White was Mekeel's defensive standout.
"He held [Isaiah] Knight to eight points, and that was big for us," Bowman said. "He [White] didn't have a great offensive game, but he played a major role at the defensive end."
Barnhill scored 33 points which included five 3s and grabbed 10 rebounds, and DeJesus, an all-tournament selection, collected 27 points and nine boards.
Mekeel will meet either CBA-Syracuse or Franklin Academy Saturday at 12:45 p.m. in a Class A regional final at Hudson Valley Community College. Mekeel won the state Class B title in 2018, and its 2007 edition won a Class C regional championship. CBA and Franklin Academy play Wednesday at Cicero-North Syracuse.
The Shenendehowa boys will play their Class AA regional final Saturday at 2:30 p.m. at HVCC against Corcoran.
The Schalmont boys will be in Class B regional semifinal action Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. against Ogdensburg Free Academy at Saratoga High School. That winner gets Saranac Friday at 7 p.m. at Beekmantown High School.
The Lake George boys, coming off their fourth straight Section II Class C title-game win, will play Saturday at 11 a.m. at HVCC against either Moriah or Madrid-Waddington. Those teams meet Wednesday. The Class D North Warren boys play Saturday at 2 p.m. against Beekmantown at Schroon Lake High School.
The Shenendehowa girls have a Class AA regional final Saturday at 4 p.m. against Cicero-North Syracuse at HVCC.
The Averill Park girls, with their seventh straight Section II Class A title in tow, will meet Franklin Academy Tuesday at 6 p.m. at SUNY Potsdam in a regional semifinal. That winner plays CBA-Syracuse Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at Onondaga Community College.
The Class B Mechanicville girls play Canton Tuesday at 7 p.m. at Saratoga High School in a regional semifinal. That winner gets the Section VII champ (TBA) Friday at 5 p.m. at Beekmantown High School.
Cambridge will continue its bid for a second straight girls' Class C state title with a regional final Saturday at 6 p.m. at HVCC against either St. Lawrence or the Section VIII champion (TBA). The Class D Fort Edward girls will play a regional final Saturday at noon at Beekmantown High School against the Section VII champion (TBA).