ALBANY, NY - Buzzer beaters seem to be the norm these days, especially in New York. We can add another to the list on Friday evening as Jack Morrow of Albany Academy drained a three from the right wing at the buzzer as the Cadets came back to defeat Nazareth in a Federation Class "A" Boys semifinal, 43-40.
It was a tight game throughout though the Kingsmen led for most of the 2nd half going up by as many as 7 midway through the 3rd, but the Cadets wouldn't quit, something that was instilled into them by their coach Brian Fruscio.
"We played a lot of great teams this year. We played LuHi, Kearney, Troy, a lot of great ones and we may not have one them all but we never quit and those games made us better." Fruscio said.
They also played Nazareth in a game on December 27th, a 48-44 Albany Academy win, and while Fruscio thought the game helped them, he also saw the benefits for the Kingsmen as well.
"Yeah I think playing them before helped in terms of knowing things they do, but I think when they played us the first time they saw us and probably thought we got this, now they knew what to expect." the coach said.
What to expect was a hard fought, grind it out, defensive game. That's surely what it was with neither team shooting it at over 40%, and both teams struggling to find good looks.
One player who was able to get out early was Samson Usilo for Nazareth. The 6'5" junior was a terror getting to the lane scoring 12 first half points as the Kingsmen led 21-17.
The game looked as if it was going to get away from Albany Academy in the 2nd half as the lead grew for Nazareth, but John Moutopoulous did a nice job hitting a couple key jumpers to will the Cadets back in the game, something Fruscio admitted.
"John is the toughest guy we have. He's only 6'0" but he is going to be a UFC fighter one day with how he plays."
Moutopoulous kept them in the game, and the score was even at 40 in the closing seconds. Nazareth had the ball and looked like they were going to hold for one, but a miscommunication on a pass caused a turnover, something that Kingsmen coach Todd Jamison said was tough.
"The play was suppose to go to Usilo, but Naquan Chandler felt that Ahmad Alkhulaidi was in a better position to get inside, but the pass didn't work. It happens." Jamison said.
The Cadets advanced the ball to midcourt and called a timeout with 1.7 seconds left. Darrien White inbounded the ball to Morrow who pumped, took a dribble and then got off a clean look that went in as the buzzer sounded to give Albany Academy the thrilling 43-40 victory.
It was a balanced scoring effort for Albany Academy with Moutopoulous leading the way with 11 points. Teigue Donohue added 8, with Morrow having 6.
For Nazareth it was all Usilo who led all scorers with 21 points.
The shot will be what everyone remembers and talks about from this one. Morrow, who was only 1 for 5 going into that shot, didn't hesitate knowing that good shooters always want the ball.
"I didn't really think it would go in but it felt good off my hand and I try and always be ready knowing the ball will come to me." Morrow said after the shot.
He kept things in perspective though when talking about the shots importance.
"We have another game tomorrow, a bigger game so there isn't time to celebrate because we have to be ready for John Adams and not get stuck on this." Morrow added.
Usilo though for Nazareth was at a loss for words at how the shot counted.
"1.7 seconds isn't enough time to pump and dribble and then shot. It's impossible." he said.
When asked about losing that way, Usilo was at a near loss of words.
"It hurts a lot. To lose this way. Very tough."
It's a big win though for Albany Academy who advances to play John Adams tomorrow at 5pm. It's a game that Fruscio knows his team is ready for.
"It's the biggest game of the year. We will be ready."
John Adams 69- McKinley 54
A PSAL team in the Class "A" Division hadn't won a game in the Federation Tournament since 2001 when Banneker was able to grab a win, but that string was broken by the Spartans who came out and played a near flawless game to win 69-54 in the other Class "A" Boys semifinal.
According to Coach James Pitman, it's all about defense for his squad.
"It's all about defense for us. We knew we were playing an explosive team from Buffalo and we had to bring our A game, and we played great defense and I'm very proud of our guys." Pitman said.
It was more than defense at times as well with Markell French at 6'4" being a terror getting to the rim and his length to cause all sorts of problems.
At the beginning of the year not many believed in Adams, but as French says, the kids on the team did.
"Coach, myself, Ahmed Kone, and Ishmael Nausrudeen at the start of the year had a meeting and we laid out our goals, and the goal was to get to Albany and win and that's what we are doing now." French said.
Though not many believed at first, many are believing now. McKinley learned firsthand just how dangerous and talented these Spartans are.
French led all scorers with 22 points and 8 rebounds for Adams, with Paul Johnson adding 20. Reynolds Jordan led McKinley with 15 in the loss.
Johnson, who was ineligible most of the year for the Spartans, has been a big time addition to the lineup, and Pitman used a baseball reference to explain his value.
"He's like another big bat to the lineup. A big bat that arrived just in time."
His addition, plus the chemistry make this Adams team special, and Johnson hopes that people recognize what's going on at the Queens school.
"This is special and I hope that people start to see what Adams is doing."
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