Considering the early-season talk about how New York City’s PSAL and CHSAA leagues were in a rare down cycle, it turned out to be the New York State Public High School Athletic Association that struggled to this finish line this week.
Only Nanuet’s 60-45 victory over Long Island Lutheran on Saturday in the girls Class B final of the Federation basketball championships in Glens Falls kept the NYSPHSAA from being kept off the victory stand for the first time since 1979.
Rice, a CHSAA school in Harlem, edged Newburgh Free Academy of the NYSPHSAA in overtime, 70-68, on Sunday to cap the final weekend of the season. Miami-bound Durand Scott forced OT with a three-pointer with 15.4 seconds left, and the Raiders survived a last-ditch Newburgh shot to win the boys Class AA final.
Earlier in the day, St. Michael’s Academy of the CHSAA edged two-time defending champion Murry Bergtraum of the PSAL for the girls Class AA championship, 62-58. Janine Davis’ three-pointer early in the fourth quarter gave St. Michael’s its first lead of the half, and the Eagles stayed ahead for good.
Both St. Michael's and Murry Bergtraum were among the 10 teams to watch in the MaxPreps Xcellent 25 national poll.
In the weekend’s other finals:
* In boys Class A, junior Tobias Harris scored 27 points and grabbed 15 rebounds to carry Long Island Lutheran past Jamesville-DeWitt, 68-51. Achraf Yacoubou added 16 points and helped limit Brandon Triche to eight points. It was the fifth Federation title for Lutheran but the first since 1997.
* In Class B, Collegiate edged NYSPHSAA champ Bishop Kearney, 57-55, despite giving back almost all of a 17-point lead. Down 54-47 with 40 seconds to go, Kearney got a three-pointer from Roderick Gray (25 points) and a layup by Chuwuka Ikpeze. A Collegiate free throw and then James Taylor's three-pointer made it a one point game before Harrison Green hit a free throw with :07.8 left to close out the scoring.
* In girls Class A, Kellenberg downed Baruch College Campus, 59-47. The Firebirds scored the final 15 points of the third quarter and the first bucket of the fourth to build a 24-point lead. Emma O'Connor helped lead the way with 14 points, six rebounds and four steals in support of Katie Cunningham's 18 points and five steals.
* In Class B, Nanuet topped Long Island Lutheran as K.C. Jentzen scored 11 of her 21 points in the first half and finished with 19 rebounds. Jentzen scored seven of the Golden Knights' 10 points in the first quarter.
The NYSPHSAA last came away with only one championship in the Federation tournament in both 2002 and 2003. Girls teams in particular have had their problems, snaring only three championships in the last seven years while battling the likes of nationally ranked Murry Bergtraum and Christ the King.
More boys basketball: Triche, Stephenson share top award
Even the most casual observers of politics know that New York is really two states – upstate and downstate – when it comes to discussing taxes, elections, the budget and just about any other topic you can name. It’s a world of “us” vs. “them” as everyone scrambles for his perceived fair share.
The world of New York basketball is a little bit like that as well. When it comes to dividing up postseason honors, New York City folks expect to rake in everything based – not unreasonably – on the fact that the PSAL and CHSAA are two of the deepest high school leagues on the planet.
Upstaters, on the other hand, argue that they have the majority of schools and players in the state and play a pretty fair brand of basketball in between football and lacrosse seasons.
Both have a case, which may be why the Basketball Coaches Association of New York has for the first time selected co-winners of its Mr. Basketball Award, which is in its 24th year. The BCANY announced over the weekend in Glens Falls that guards Lance Stephenson of Abraham Lincoln and Brandon Triche of Jamesville-DeWitt, outside Syracuse, are the co-recipients of the honor.
If recent history is an accurate barometer, both are destined for greatness.
Last year’s winner was Sylven Landesberg of Holy Cross, who recently was named ACC freshman of the year following an outstanding season at Virginia. He was preceded by former Niagara Falls great Jonny Flynn, who just got done carrying Syracuse University to the NCAA’s Sweet 16.
A couple of other recent winners include Greg Paulus (2005), who just wrapped up his career at Duke and Sebastian Telfair (2004), who held the school and state scoring records before Stephenson came along and jumped directly to the NBA..
A few other Mr. Basketball winners who made it to the pros include the late Malik Sealy (1988), Kenny Anderson (1989), John Wallace (1992), Felipe Lopez (1994), Stephon Marbury (1995) and Elton Brand (1997).
That’s not a bad collection of talent.
Basketball coaches calling it a career
* Port Jefferson boys coach Keith Buehler cites family considerations for his decision to resign after four Section XI Class C championships in nine seasons. Buehler and his wife Stacy have four children ages eight months to 10 years old.
"You spend so much time away from your family. Especially me," Buehler told Newsday. "I know I over-scout. You know how many times I came home from a game and everyone was asleep?' I was like, 'What do I do now?' I'm a fun guy. I love running around and playing with the kids. And they're asleep already."
On the night of what proved to be his last game, Buehler found his daughter Asha rooting for Oyster Bay.
"She kept asking me, 'Is this your last game? What happens if you lose tonight?' I said, 'I'm with you for the rest of my life.' 'What happens if you win?' she says. I tell her that the worst case scenario is that we go for maybe two more weeks. I told her you've lasted this long, hang in there. But she wanted us to lose. Oh yeah, she was rooting against us."
* Albany girls coach Leslie Bogucki is retiring after 18 seasons. including a NYSPHSAA championship in 1997. She guided the Falcons to a 214-181 record capped by a 12-10 mark this winter.
Lacrosse: Washington team on ambitious road trip
* It's tough to imagine very many boys lacrosse teams playing non-leaguers vs. Corning East, West Genesee, Guilderland and Lakeland/Panas in one season. West Genny owns more state championships (15) than any New York team in any sport, Corning East has been to three straight finals and the other two teams aren’t exactly chopped liver either.
But Mercer Island, Wash., High plans to take on all four of them in a five-day span this week during the team's annual New York swing. The Islanders, 6-0 with a 95-27 scoring margin this spring, are at Corning East on Tuesday and then take on the other three foes on consecutive days beginning Thursday.
Coach Ian O'Hearn is a Section II product out of Shaker High and is in his eighth season running the Mercer Island program, which extends all the way down to team for first- and second-graders.
Mercer Island missed making the Washington state final last spring for the first time this decade and is a junior-oriented squad led by goalie Hap Giraud and long sticks Conner Beckwith and Connor Raffety. Australian-born senior Daniel Shields, 10th in the state in points last year, is the top scoring threat.
* Senior Amanda Macaluso scored four times to set a Hauppauge record for career goals during a 13-7 victory over West Islip. Macaluso has 145 goals, eclipsing the mark of 142 by Beth Moore in 2007.
* West Genesee opened defense of its back-to-back state girls Class A championship with a 15-5 victory over Skaneateles. Maria DiFato had four goals and four assists, and Karlyn Tupper had four goals and an assist as the Wildcats extended their winning streak to 49 games.
* Former Yorktown and Syracuse University star Brian Crockett was killed in a crash on the New Jersey Turnpike early Friday. Crockett was The Journal News boys player of the year in 2001 after scoring 59 goals and 38 assists as a senior. He scored three goals in the 2004 Division I championship to help Syracuse to the title.
John Schiano, who has written about high school sports in western and central New York for more than 25 years, covers New York for MaxPreps. He may be reached at email@example.com.