GLENS FALLS — When the buzzer sounded on the kind of victory his school had never seen before, and with his McKinley Macks piling onto each other on the Glens Falls Civic Center court, coach Zaire Dorsey took it all in at the bench. Then he slowly walked a few steps in the opposite direction.
“I saw one of my daughters, and I wanted to go give her a hug,” Dorsey said. “They’re big supporters of Daddy, and they share their Dad with other people.”
Those people include his basketball team — his Class A state championship basketball team.
In an epic contest that will take its place among the many classics that have been played in this town for decades, McKinley won the first state championship in school history with a 76-73 overtime victory over Burke Catholic of Orange County.
“I’m speechless – I’m just happy for the kids,” said Dorsey, a McKinley graduate. “It’s something everyone – the family, the fans who made the trip, the McKinley alumni – will be able to talk about for a long time.”
The Macks, as they have done throughout a 22-3 season, and as they have done at an exceptionally high level during the state playoffs, received contributions from all over the court as they played what they call “McKinley Basketball.” In short, the Macks defend hard, play fast, play smart, and they finish.
Lovell Smith, a 6-foot-2 senior, won championship MVP honors after an outstanding performance (24 points on 12-of-18 shooting, eight rebounds, three assists, two blocks and two steals) that became necessary when fellow senior and leading scorer Marcus Morris was hampered by foul trouble.
Morris, a 6-3 senior, had 16 points on 6-of-17 shooting. He hit 2 of 6 from three-point range, including a game-tying three-pointer with 24 seconds left in regulation. He also had a key tip-in that enabled the Macks to keep their lead in overtime (making it 71-68 with 48 seconds left).
Senior Samuel Smith (no relation to Lovell) had 10 points and four assists, and hit two free throws with 5.8 seconds left in regulation that would force overtime.
Senior Daequan Warren (six points, eight rebounds, two blocks, two assists, two steals) had a 2-for-2 trip to the line in overtime, as did senior reserve Stephen Johnson (nine points, four rebounds) and senior Reyjzon Jordan.
Jordan had 11 points, four assists, three steals and played excellent defense on Burke point guard Jack Dwyer. With 1:30 left in overtime, the 5-10 senior found Lovell Smith with an inbound pass to give McKinley a 69-67 lead that, thanks to its clutch foul shooting, it would not give up the rest of the way.
“All that time and hard work in practices, and coach ‘Dorse’ getting on you,” said Morris, “is all worth it now because we’re state champions.”
After a tightly played first half, McKinley was able to build leads of nine in the third and fourth quarters.
The highlight of the third was a play in which all five Macks touched the ball going from defense to offense. Warren blocked a shot, Morris gathered the ball and threw a long pass downcourt to Jordan, who found Lovell Smith, who hit Samuel Smith, who scored while being fouled for a 43-36 lead with 1:16 left in the third.
After its excellent (22-15) third quarter, which has been a staple of McKinley’s playoff run through three straight private schools (Rochester’s Aquinas in the regionals and Syracuse’s Bishop Ludden in Saturday’s semifinals), McKinley had a 47-41 lead that it would push to 57-48 in the fourth.
From there, a Burke Catholic team making its fourth straight appearance in Glens Falls (Class B champion in 2011, Class B semifinalist 2010 and last year) showed its final four pedigree. The Eagles (18-5) went on what would be a 12-0 run. When Burke Catholic junior Michael Coffey (22 points) swished one of his four three-pointers, Burke had a 60-57 lead with 47.8 seconds to play.
That was followed by Morris’ game-tying three. Burke went up, 62-60, on two free throws by senior Stan Buczek (19 points) with 14 seconds left. Samuel Smith then answered with two free throws of his own. His trip was delayed slightly because the Macks tried to have Morris at the line before the officials said Samuel Smith was the fouled player. He also waited through a timeout between the free throws.
“When I went to the free-throw line, it was straight confidence,” said Smith. “Coach ‘Dorse’ always got us shooting free throws, no matter what. So it was like, take your time, take a deep breath, I knew they were going in.”
The state championship is the first by a Yale Cup large school since Bennett won in Class B in 1984. Prior to 2004, the state was divided into four classes (A, B, C and D). It is also the first large school title won by a Section VI team not from Niagara Falls since 1984, when Class A also was won by Sweet Home.
And the Macks are not finished playing.
McKinley will play at the state Federation Tournament of Champions, which brings together the winners of NYSPHSAA, the state’s Catholic and independent associations as well as New York City’s Public Schools Athletic League.
McKinley (22-3) will play PSAL champion John Adams (24-5) in the Federation Class A semifinals at 1:30 p.m. Friday at Times Union Center in Albany. In the other semifinal, at 3:15 p.m. Friday, are state Catholic champ Nazareth (which beat Canisius for that title) and independent representative Albany Academy. The title game will be at 5 p.m. Saturday.
In the Class AA final, a team that many Western New York high school basketball fans are familiar with prevailed over one coached by a University at Buffalo all-time great.
Rochester private school power Bishop Kearney, which played several local teams this year, including early-season losses to Niagara Falls and Canisius, prevailed over New Rochelle, 45-39. New Rochelle (16-10), which attained national renown this year due a buzzer-beating win over Mount Vernon, is coached by UB all-time leading scorer Rasaun Young.
Major Division I recruit Thomas Bryant, a 6-9 sophomore, had 15 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks to earn MVP honors for Kearney (17-7). Syracuse University-bound senior Chinonso Obokoh had 13 rebounds and eight blocks along with four points while senior guard Antwoine Anderson had 14 points.