ALBANY, NY - The last high school basketball game of the year is for all the marbles. It's the state federation "AA" championship game, a matchup of all the champions from all the leagues in the state.
This year it was Boys & Girls vs. Mt. Vernon. Boys High has been in the federation tournament the last two seasons, but haven't been able to come away with that elusive victory.
This time, after taking a big punch in the mouth from Mt. Vernon, Boys & Girls recovered nicely and started landing some heavy blows. The Kangaroos were able to withstand a late comeback attempt from Mt. Vernon, and in the end won their first state title behind the leadership of Leroy Fludd.
Boys & Girls won their first state title 66-60. Mt. Vernon came out with a tremendous amount of energy, scoring the first 9 points of the game. Boys High was able to mount a mini rally, but when the first period was over, the Knights held an 18-11 lead. Things really looked good for Mt. Vernon, especially after Jarrel Marshall had two big time dunks. One where he caught an alley-oop dunk from Isaiah Cousins, and the other was a baseline two-hander after some nifty passing from the team.
Boys & Girls head coach Ruth Lovelace always tells her team before games don't get punched first. However, she didn't say it this game, but when her team got punched; they punched back as hard as they could. One of the reasons that her team got back into the game was Shakur Pinder, a player that does all the little things on the floor that allows his team to win.
"My main option was to shut down all the bigs anybody I'm on that got the ball. Grab every rebound and block every shot, contest every shot, show the referees that there's a shot blocker out there" a very happy Pinder said after the game.
Pinder was a key player for the Kangaroos and goes by the nickname "Garbage Man", and it's a name that he embraces, just the way he embraces his role on the team. Once he realized that was the way he was going to get on the court, he threw caution to the wind and did it.
"I love garbage man, because everything, all they throw up…I'm sending it to the garbage" Pinder said.
Even with Pinder and the rest of the Kangaroos playing with more energy, Boys still began the second quarter down seven points. However, that was only a mere obstacle that they had to overcome.
Wesley Myers hit a three pointer from the right corner to start a 21-2 run that went all the way until halftime. Myers, who scored 17 points and only missed one out of nine free throw attempts, finished the quarter by getting a steal at midcourt with 5 seconds left. He was able to get all the way to the basket and score while getting fouled. Myers , who scored 17 points, made the free throw and actually stole the inbounds pass with 2 seconds left. He almost made the shot, but the damage had been done. Fludd also did damage in the period, scoring 7 straight points, two coming off a steals that started a one man fast break.
The third quarter was played pretty evenly, with Mt. Vernon even cutting Boys lead down a couple of points. William Robinson, a 6-5 senior forward was big off the bench in the period, scoring two powerful baskets inside the paint. Robinson finished with a double-double, scoring 11 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. The score at the end of the period was 44-37.
Fludd started the 4th quarter by scoring off a nice feed from senior forward Joel Angus. Cousins (13 pts and 4 assists) scored after rebounding a missed shot, but Boys came back with 4 straight points from Rashad Andrews. Then after Fludd split a pair of free throws, Mt. Vernon turned the ball over and it ended up in Fludd's hands. With nothing between him and the basket, Fludd drove the court and flushed a big time dunk to put Boys up 53-39. There was still over five minutes left, but it looked like Boys was going to be able to cruise to a win.
Of course that didn't happen. Mt. Vernon never gave up, and Boys started missing shots and turning over the ball trying to slow the game down. It seemed like the wrong thing to do because Mt. Vernon sliced a double digit deficit and was only down only a couple of possessions. Randy Stephens, who scored a team high 15 points and 9 boards, had two last baskets on layups.
There wasn't enough time and Myers made 5 of 6 free throws to ice the game and keep Mt. Vernon away.
So now Boys & Girls are state champs. This weekend they won their first two federation games. Fludd has had a very good career, becoming the first Boys player to win 3 city titles and now adding a state title to the resume. He's had a wonderful year, one where his coach said that he really is a man amongst boys on the court. She called him a bully on the court.
"I'm a physical player. I like getting in peoples head," Fludd said after the game. "I like getting people frustrated on the court and that's what I do. I bully people, that's my game. I'm not going to let somebody sit out there and bully me, so I bully back."
Fludd bullied his way to a game high 25 points and game MVP. He has multiple offers from high major programs including St. John's and Rutgers. Right now he is focusing on finishing high school before he makes a decision.
But in the end, Fludd and his teammates did it for their coach. They played hard all season and accomplished the goals that they set out to do.
"It feels good to be a state champ and for us to get our first state title…that's very big for our coach" Fludd said.
Lovelace feels like the accomplishment has put her on top of a mountain. You can't go any further once you get there.
"To come up short two years in a row, it's something you didn't have, so it's very big for me to get this under my belt. You know, to win a state championship, it kind of completes your career a little bit. That's why it's so special" Lovelace said.
Winning a state title is special for everyone involved. It makes everybody happy, from the players and coaches, to parents and alumni.
Is it possible? Is Boys & Girls a dynasty?
Who knows if they are a dynasty? However, there is one fact that can't be changed. They have won 3 city chips, and now have a state chip to put the cherry on top.
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