By Rob Potter
NEW PALTZ It didn’t take the Livingston Manor Wildcats long to grab the lead and momentum against the John A. Coleman Catholic High School Statesmen in the Section IX Class D boys’ basketball championship game on Saturday night at SUNY New Paltz.
In fact, it took five seconds.
On the opening tip-off, Manor’s Mike Mills tapped the ball ahead to teammate Troy Correa in the frontcourt. Correa then passed the ball to Kenny Fisk, who darted to the basket for a layup and a 2-0 lead for the top-seeded Wildcats.
Manor (14-5) quickly scored nine more points to take an 11-0 advantage with 6:28 left in the first quarter. Correa scored five points in the run, including a 3-pointer from the top of the key to cap the scoring barrage.
Just like that, the Wildcats were all over Coleman and never slowed down in methodcially building their lead en route to a 70-52 victory the school’s first ever sectional title in boys’ basketball.
With the win, Manor advanced to the opening round of the state Class D playoffs where they will play Greenburgh Academy at 3 p.m. today at the Westchester County Center in White Plains. Greenburgh of Section tion I was actually defeated by Biondi, 69-59, in the Section I Class D title game, but was awarded the championship after it was discovered that Biondi had used an ineligible player.
“I think I lost my voice during that 11-0 run,” Manor Coach Charlie Hicks said. “It was very important to get out to that 11-0 lead. It gave us confidence and took away any pregame jitters we had.”
Correa concurred with his coach.
“That 11-0 run was huge,” he said. “We practice that tip-off play and try to score on it every game. The times when it didn’t work, we had a close game or we lost the game. I’m happy it worked tonight.”
Manor held a 19-9 advantage at the end of the first quarter. But No. 2 seed Coleman (7-13) cut that lead to three points early in the second quarter. In the opening minute of the period, Chad Callahan and Jordan Shaw scored from close range. Then with 6:54 displayed on the clock, Shaw swished a free throw to narrow the Wildcats’ advantage to 19-14. At the 6:33 mark, Callahan converted a layup to make a 19-16 game.
Hicks then called a timeout so his team could regroup. Following the timeout, the Wildcats went on a 15-6 run to take a 34-22 lead at the intermission.
Manor outscored Coleman 22-9 in the third period to increase its lead to 25 points (56-31) going into the final eight minutes of play. Mike Mills scored seven points and Fisk netted six points in the third quarter.
The Wildcats led by as many as 28 points in the fourth quarter.
“This feels really good,” Fisk said. “When we took that 11-0 lead, we knew we could win this game.
“But Coleman came back in the second quarter,” he added. “Our 2-3 [zone defense] kind of let down for a couple of minutes. They were able to drive into the middle and make some baskets. But then we started to play better defense and stopped them from getting those baskets.”
As they have all season, Manor relied on balanced scoring. Correa had a game-high 18 points, while Mills and Fisk poured in 17 and 16 points respectively. Josh Janik chipped in with 10 points. Correa, Fisk and Mills are all senior starters, while junior Janik is the Wildcats’ sixth man.
Correa also recorded eight assists and four rebounds. Janik grabbed eight rebounds and blocked four shots, while Mills had six rebounds and four assists.
In addition, senior forward Dharamet Khangura added seven points, six rebounds and four blocked shots for the Wildcats.
“I am proud of all of these guys, especially the nine seniors,” Correa said. “Kenny [Fisk], Mikey [Mills] and I have played together for many years. We always go out and work hard on the court and try to lead our team to victory.”
Fisk noted that the seniors have received basketball lessons from Hicks for several years.
“Coach Hicks was our sixth-grade teacher and he used to play basketball with us at recess,” Fisk explained. “This is his last year and he thought about not coming back this year. Then he said he would, but we had to win the section title.”
After he won his 100th career game earlier this season, Hicks said he was not going to coach for the next couple of years in order to spend more time with his wife Amy and their two sons, 4-year-old Anthony and 2-year-old Vincent.
Because of the fact that Coleman beat Manor in last year’s Class D title game and he will be taking a short hiatus from coaching, Saturday night’s victory was very sweet for Hicks.
“I am so proud of these guys,” he said of his players. “They are a great group of boys. Winning this championship is good for our players, the coaches, our school and the entire Livingston Manor community. It’s just a great feeling to win this.”
Shaw led the Statesmen with 16 points, while teammate Dino Celadon added 14 points.
Coleman Coach John Funk noted that his team was hurt by its slow start.
“We have done that the last three games, spotting the other team 10 or 11 or 14 points,” Funk said. “You can’t keep putting yourself behind the 8-ball like that, no matter what sport it is.
“We were able to get their lead down to five points in the second quarter,” he added. “But then they scored on two possessions and they were back up by 10 points again. They have a very good team.”
Funk noted that he had a relatively young team this season, which only qualified for Sectionals as a sub.500 team because several of its victories came against higher class schools in the Mid-Hudson Athletic League (MHAL).
“About two-thirds of our players are underclassmen,” he said. “We have four seniors graduating, but eight players will be returning. We hope to come back to this game next season.”