Ram Tough, Twice Over
pblackwell, Sun, March 22nd, 2009
Now Jamesville-DeWitt stands alone.
Prior to Sunday afternoon, no Section III team boys basketball team had ever won back-to-back state championships.
To change that bit of history, the Red Rams, with a target on its back all season, had to, in the climactic chapter, endure one of the finest games ever played in the long history of state tournaments at Glens Falls Civic Center.
Between them, J-D and Peekskill had owned the Class A bracket for five years, so it made sense that they were together again, Red Rams and Red Devils, two powers fighting for one crown.
From the opening tip, J-D quickly found its nemeisis in the form of diminutive Peekskill point guard Daquon Brickhouse, who helped the Devils lead for much of the first half.
Yet even as Brandon Triche was struggling to find his rhythm, the other J-D stars compensated, from Alshwan Hymes and his rainbow 3-pointers to DaJuan Coleman dominating the paint on his way to 18 points and 18 rebounds.
A big turning point may have come just before halftime. Peekskill led 37-31 when Coleman hit a lay-up and the Devils got nailed with a technical foul. Two Hymes free throws later, J-D only trailed 37-35 as they went to the break, and felt quite good.
Neither team would lead by more than four points the rest of the way, swapping the lead as the tension grew and the quality of basketball only seemed to improve.
Hymes, who led with 21 points, hit a jumper with 48 seconds left, putting J-D up 67-66, only to have Brickhouse make a free throw with 20.2 seconds left. When both Steve Thompson and Triche missed possible winning shots, it would go to overtime. It was only fitting.
Before fouling out, Thompson hit two key shots in the OT, but still J-D had to watch, terrified, as three different Peekskill attempts to tie it fell off the rim, and it ended 77-75.
It was quite a contrast to 2008, when J-D dominated the final four in Glens Falls. First came the 40-32 struggle with Batavia on Saturday, then this remarkable final where only J-D's best effort would bring victory.
And each of the big names did something great. Triche hit his share of timely baskets and led with authority, far beyond the 12 points, eight boards and four assists.
Hymes hit a wide variety of big shots, from drives to 3-pointers. Coleman showed how much he could dominate in the next three years with a fast-improving game in the paint. Both Thompson and Lamar Kearse (who had a huge fourth quarter) took pressure off the stars.
From the time they started practice in November, J-D dealt wtih crushing expectations. Anything less than what took place today would seem disappointing, ridiculous as that might sound.
Through this, coach Bob McKenney and his staff kept the Red Rams on task, from the tournament conquest in Binghamton late in December where Triche and Hymes carried the load, through the great duels with CBA and the end of a 38-game win streak, and through a playoff run where the only real drama came in the last two parts.
This is the third state title McKenney has won at J-D, and the fourth for the program overall. Few programs ever get to this kind of exalted level, but the Red Rams are there - and this classic state final with Peekskill only added to the legend.
Also, congratulations must go out to the other state champs. Newburgh Free Academy dominated Niagara Falls to win Class AA, while Bishop Kearney (B), Avon (C) and South Kortright (D) took the other main prizes.
And over in Troy, where the state girls final four took place, Copiague (Class AA), Newark (A), Nanuet (B), Nazareth (C) and Coleman Catholic (D) took home the championships. Congratulations to them all.