GLENS FALLS — It wasn’t the way Middle Early College wanted to go out, not by a long shot.
The Kats, after a promising start, were outplayed on both ends of the floor and lost to Hoosic Valley, 67-55, in the Class C final at the New York State Championships in front of an estimated 2,500 at the Glens Falls Civic Center.
Bri’an Brown (24 points) and Kevin Briggs (15) were named to the Class C all-tournament team after a stellar weekend, but that did little to console the Kats who were looking to bring a state title back to the Buffalo Public Schools for the second year in a row.
With the game slipping from their reach, Kats coach Randy Rich was ejected from the game with 2:13 left, his team trailing 59-47, after being called for his second technical.
“When I get frustrated the kids get frustrated. They kind of reflect me. I’ve been cool all year, and they’ve been cool all year,” said Rich. “I definitely should apologize to my school district, my principal, the kids first of all, I let them down, I embarrassed them. It’s not the way it should be done. I didn’t handle things correctly. It’s not a good example, it’s not the way high school basketball should be.”
It was the third time in five years the Kats have reached the state final, but this one will be remembered for John Rooney of Hoosic, who made sure it would be a long bus ride home for the Kats. He scored a game-high 29 points on 12-of-17 shooting and was named the Class C tournament MVP. Teammate Mike Pierre proved a tough matchup as well as he connected for 24 points.
It was a four-point game after three quarters, but Hoosic flexed its muscles in the fourth quarter, outscoring the Kats, 22-14. Trailing by double digits and its coach reduced to a spectator, the Kats’ fate was sealed. The Yale Cup champs finished the season 19-6.
“They were trying to take away the inside on me,” said Brown, who finished 10 of 19 from the floor. “They were having No. 23 push me to the left. I can still score quite a bit going to my left, but they were making it difficult under there. They caught a lead on us, and then they were able to extend the lead.”
Middle Early College started the game in control. Brown set the tone, scoring his team’s first six points. Briggs added a runner and a nice-looking drive and the Kats appeared on their way.
Hoosic called a time out to adjust and quickly closed the gap ending the quarter on a 6-2 run to climb within 16-14. Rooney gave Hoosic Valley its first lead early in the second quarter, 17-16. The lead changed hands a few times before Rooney made a pair of free throws with 46.2 seconds left to give the Indians a 27-26 lead at the break.
The Kats shot a respectable 12 of 25 (48 percent) from the floor compared to 9 of 27 (33 percent) for Hoosic, but they had nothing to show for it. After the promising start, the shots stopped falling for the Kats, they gave up too many offensive rebounds and Brown cooled off.
The game was tied three times in the third quarter. A basket by Briggs gave the Middle Early College a short-lived lead at 35-33. The Indians went on a 6-0 run and took their largest lead of the game. Rich picked up his first technical with 1:13 left adding to the team’s frustration.
“We needed to play tighter defense,” said Brown. “They got a lot of easy buckets.”
Hoosic Valley is likely to hang around the Capital District. as its girls team plays Chautauqua Lake today at 2:45 at Hudson Valley CC in Troy.