By Rob Potter
NEW PALTZ “I said I had a dream,” Livingston Manor’s Mike Mills shouted to a group of fans behind the team bench moments after Saturday evening’s boys’ basketball state Class D Regional Final game between the Wildcats and the Section XI champion Bridgehampton Killer Bees.
Mills then took the time to explain what he meant.
“After we won the state [Class D] baseball title last spring, I had a dream that me and my basketball teammates were playing on a green court,” the senior forward said. “The court here [New Paltz] is not green and the court at the Westchester County Center wasn’t green either. But I went on the internet and saw that the court in Glens Falls is green.”
Mills’ dream proved to be prophetic as the Wildcats will be playing Section X champion Madrid-Waddington at the Glens Falls Civic Center on Friday at 11:45 a.m in the state Class D Final Four.
The Wildcats earned their trip to the Final Four with a 69-53 victory over Bridgehampton (9-12) at SUNY New Paltz.
Leading Manor (16-5) to the win was senior guard Troy Correa, who scored a career-high 40 points. Just four-days earlier, Correa recorded his previous career high of 31 points in the Wildcats’ 86-54 triumph over Greenburgh Academy.
The Wildcats found themselves in an unusual position in Saturday’s game as they trailed at halftime, 29-27. The game was tied at 22-22 with 3:00 left in the second quarter. But during the next two minutes, Caanan Campbell hit a 3-pointer from the corner and scored a basket in the lane to give Bridgehampton a 27-22 advantage.
With 41 seconds remaining, Manor’s Josh Janik scored down on the block to make it a 27-24 game. At the buzzer, Correa swished a 3-pointer to cut the Killer Bees’ lead to just two points at the intermission.
Bridgehampton extended its lead to 35-31 early in the third quarter, but Manor quickly evened the score at 35-35 thanks to baskets by Janik and Mills.
At the 5:15 mark, Correa was fouled while driving to the basket. The ball fell through the net and Correa made his subsequent free throw to give the Wildcats a 38-35 lead.
The Wildcats then added to their advantage for the rest of the game.
Manor outscored the Killer Bees 18-8 in the last five minutes of the third period to extend its lead to 53-43.
“After I made that 3-pointer at the buzzer, I knew we would play better in the second half,” Correa said.
The 5-foot-9 senior guard scored his 40 points from all over the court. He made 15 field goals, the key 3-pointer before halftime and was 7-of-8 at the foul line. Many of the field goals Correa had were layups after receiving an outlet pass from one of his teammates.
“My teammates know that if they get the defensive rebound and control it and then pass the ball upcourt, I will run it down because I’m the fastest guy on the team,” Correa said.
Mills and Janik also scored in double figures for the Wildcats. Mills netted 12 points and Janik had 11 points.
Caanan Campbell led Bridgehampton with 21 points. Teammates Jason Hopson and Joshua Lamison scored 12 points apiece.
“We played better in the second half today because we have been a second-half team all season,” Mills said. “It’s so exciting to win this game and go to the Final Four. We all worked very hard to get here. We have had a lot of support from the community all season, just look at all of the fans who are here today.”
Senior guard Jon Davis agreed with his teammate.
“We definitely improved in the second half,” he said. “We started to play with a better mindset. And we worked hard on defense. Coach [Charlie] Hicks always has spent a lot of time working on defense in practice.
“And the girls are going to the Final Four as well which makes this more special for Livingston Manor,” added Davis, referring to the Manor Lady Wildcats’ 58-31 victory over Section XI champion Shelter Island in a girls’ Class D Regional Final played earlier on Saturday at Farmingdale State College on Long Island. “Everybody is hugging and congratulating each other.”
Hicks, who praised his team for playing better in the second half, is looking forward to making the trip upstate to Glens Falls.
“It’s surreal. I don’t know how to describe it,” Hicks said. “I remember following the Liberty boys’ basketball team back in the 1992-1993 season when they went to the Final Four. I have always wanted to get there as a player or a coach. I never made it as a player, but I am going now as a coach.
“Our goal at the beginning of the season was to win the sectional title,” he added. “But now our goal is to win two more games and a state title.”