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Recalling great basketball moments

Recalling great basketball moments

Section II teams and individuals have impressed in the state final four
Recalling great basketball moments
Kevin Huerter and the Shenendehowa basketball team celebrate after winning the 2015 state Class AA title.
Photographer: Peter Barber

Ten Section II basketball teams were left pondering what might have been when the remaining portion of the New York State Public High School Athletic Association boys' and girls’ championship tournaments were canceled Monday due to concerns over the spread of the novel coronavirus. 

Championship competition was also cut short for a pair of hockey teams, four bowling squads and numerous individual bowlers.

The Schalmont boys (Class B), Averill Park girls (Class A) and Mechanicville girls (Class B) were the last of the basketball bunch to play games, and each of them prevailed, in regional semifinals March 10. On March 12, all remaining tournament games were postponed indefinitely, and the decision to cancel all those games was formalized earlier this week.

The Shenendehowa (Class AA), Mekeel Christian Academy (Class A), Lake George (Class C) and North Warren (Class D) boys, and the Shenendehowa (Class AA), Cambridge (Class C) and Fort Edward (Class D) girls were also alive when the NYSPHSAA basketball tournament, like the state ice hockey final four and state bowling championships, were called off Monday. The New York Federation Tournament of Champions basketball competition scheduled for this weekend at Fordham University had been canceled on March 13. Albany Academy was among the boys’ teams that were slated to play and would have come in as the defending Class A champion.

The Cambridge girls were also denied an opportunity to defend their NYSPHSAA Class C title after prevailing for the first time in 2019. 

With no high school basketball games left to be played in New York for the 2019-20 season, here is a look back at 10 memorable moments from past NYSPHSAA championship weekends involving some of Section II’s best-ever teams.

FIRST CHAMPIONS

Niskayuna (Class AA) and Schuylerville (Class B) were the first Section II boys' teams to win NYSPHSAA championships in 1978, and while the Silver Warriors rolled past Jamesville-DeWitt 75-55 to earn their title in Rochester, the Black Horses needed three overtimes before dispatching Bloomfield 70-68 to gain theirs. Eric Stover scored 35 points and decided the Class B final with a reverse layup at the buzzer. The Class B MVP shot 15 of 16 from the field. Jim Bonaquist and John Leonard scored 19 and 17 points, respectively, for a powerhouse Niskayuna team that won all four of its state tournament games by at least nine points under legendary coach Tom Howley.

Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons (Class A), Hoosick Falls (Class C) and Germantown (Class D) were Section II's first NYSPHSAA girls' basketball champions in 1986 at Queensbury. Bishop Gibbons knocked off an unbeaten Lockport team 45-32 to secure its only state flag, with MVP Shawn Shafer collecting 21 points, six rebounds and six steals in that victory.

DROUGHT ENDS

After Niskayuna and Schuylerville won NYSPHSAA titles in 1978, no Section II boys' team claimed another until Shenendehowa's 1987 squad anchored by Greg Koubek beat Hempstead in the Class A semifinals 54-48 and Bishop Ludden 69-52 in the championship game to run its record to 27-0. With Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski in attendance to watch his recruit, Koubek had 23 points and 16 rebounds against Ludden, and Tom King added 16 points.

Shenendehowa's season ended with a 54-49 federation semifinal loss to Archbishop Molloy when its star, Kenny Anderson, dropped in 21 points, and Koubek netted 25. Later, Anderson played for more than a decade in the NBA. Koubek's resume includes four NCAA Final Four appearances while at Duke.

ACHIEVING PERFECTION

The St. Johnsville girls’ basketball team achieved perfection twice over as part of its 64-game win streak that was highlighted by NYSPHSAA and federation championships in 1993 and 1994. The Saints went 55-0 in those two seasons and won nine more games to begin the 1994-95 campaign before Northville halted their Section II-record run. Sisters Caryn and Wendi Schoff played their last games together in the 1993-94 season when the Saints posted NYSPHSAA Class D final four wins over Haldane (64-58) and Stanford (50-38)and then beat St. Dominic (64-53) in the federation title game. The Schoffs combined for 50 points against St. Dominic, and combined for nearly 6,000 in their scholastic careers.

Caryn Schoff became the state career scoring leader as a senior in 1994-95 and was selected co-Miss New York Basketball with Christ The King's Chamique Holdsclaw, a future Tennessee and WNBA star. Schoff played at Syracuse and is a member of the college's athletic hall of fame.

The Germantown girls won Class D NYSPHSAA and federation titles back-to-back in 1986 and 1987.

LAST SHOT DROPS

With standout Kristan Pelletier double-teamed as the final seconds ticked away, Val Klopfer drove for a layup and beat the buzzer to give Bishop Maginn the 1996 Class A championship with a 62-60 win over Ursuline. Pelletier scored 20 of her 28 points in the second half and took home the MVP award, and Klopfer scored 14 in the matchup of unbeaten teams.

That same day, Peekskill and star Elton Brand outlasted Schalmont in a boys' Class B semifinal game 64-60 in overtime. Brand, a future star for Duke and in the NBA, finished with 16 points and 15 rebounds, while Corey Oskinski — later a Siena College star — paced the Sabres with 22 points.

ONE MORE TIME

It was in 1999 when the Shenendehowa girls beat Sachem and Gatorade Player of the Year Nicole Kaczmarski 61-54, and then topped Ursuline 63-57, for the program's fourth — and most recent — NYSPHSAA championship under multi-hall of fame coach and all-time Section II wins leader Ken Strube. Strube also led the Plainsmen to Class A state crowns in 1988, 1990 and 1993. Jolene Johnston — later a Siena College standout — was the 1999 Class A MVP after scoring 22 points against Ursuline.

Shenendehowa's four girls' state titles are the most for any Section II school.

PATS TAKE REMATCH, TOO

After beating Hempstead in the 1998 boys' Class A title game 61-51, Schenectady did it again in 2001 by a 69-45 count. Schenectady used a fourth-quarter push to pave the way for both victories over Hempstead, and both of those Patriot editions finished 28-1 after federation defeats. Willie Deane scored 28 points in the 1998 NYSPHSAA final and Jason McKrieth — a freshman reserve on the 1998 team — scored 21 in the 2001 NYSPHSAA final. Both Deane, who would later star at Purdue and overseas, and McKrieth were named the tournament's MVP.

GOT IT DONE

From 2006 through last season, Averill Park sent 11 of its girls' basketball teams into NYSPHSAA tournament action, but only one of them went the distance, and then some. That was in 2010 when the Warriors followed up their regional success with state Class A final four wins against Greece Athena 46-33 and then Lakeland 53-46. Class A MVP Katie Duma scored 16 against Greece Athena and Michela Ottati led with 17 against Lakeland. Averill Park went on to claim the 2010 federation championship, and was the last Section II girls' team to do so.

BACK-TO-BACK

With a 54-49 Class A win against Greece Athena in 2015, Scotia-Glenville became the first Section II boys' basketball team to secure back-to-back NYSPHSAA championships. Joe Cremo — who would later play at UAlbany and Villanova — scored 24 points including two clinching free throws, and was selected the tournament most valuable player for the second year in a row after the Tartans extended their win streak to 53 games.

Scotia-Glenville beat Rochester East in the 2014 state final 66-44 when Alex Sausville tied the all-class tournament record with eight 3-point baskets.

OH, BROTHER

With a fourth-quarter surge for the second day in a row, Shenendehowa knocked off Brentwood 76-63 for the 2015 NYSPHSAA boys' Class AA championship. Brothers Kevin and Tom Huerter led the way with 25 and 22 points, respectively, and MVP Kevin notched 16 in the final quarter.  Kevin Huerter — now with the NBA's Atlanta Hawks — had 25 points in a 60-52 semifinal win over Mount Vernon with 11 in the final quarter.

Three Section II boys' teams won NYSPHSAA championships in 2015 (Shenendehowa, Scotia-Glenville, Lake George), in 2014 (Green Tech, Scotia-Glenville, Hoosic Valley) and in 2013 (Watervliet, Lake George, Argyle).

GIRARD'S GAME-WINNER

Just over a year ago, state career scoring leader Joseph Girard III dropped in a buzzer-beating overtime layup to cap a 50-point performance and lift Glens Falls past Lowville 75-74 in the state Class B championship game in Binghamton. Girard III, who quarterbacked Glens Falls to a state football title that fall, forced overtime with a 3-pointer and scored seven of the Indians 11 points in it. Glens Falls secured its first state title after losing in the 2003 and 2007 finals, and added a federation crown the next weekend when Girard III garnered one more MVP award before heading off to Syracuse University.

Also last year, Tyler Leon's improbable, last-second 4-point play enabled Oppenheim-Ephratah-St. Johnsville to tie Panama at 50 in a Class D semifinal, and the Wolves went on to win 61-57 in overtime. Leon collected 20 points and 21 rebounds in the semifinal — with his first career 3-point basket — and had 16 points and 11 boards in OESJ's 67-54 title-game loss to Harrisville.

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

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