New Paltz boys and Highland girls win Section 9 basketball title

New Paltz’s Axel Rodriguez at the line. (Photos by Rich Corozine)

WOW! It took three overtimes to do it, but the New Paltz boys won their first Section 9 title in a decade with Monday night’s uber-thrilling 78-77 win over Saugerties. And they have burly senior forward Mike Holohan’s heroics to thank for it. The Big Fella hit a three-pointer with just :01.2 left in regulation to tie it at 62-62; then hit a layup with just :02.1 left in the first overtime to force a second overtime at 72-all; and then hit another layup with just :04.6 left in the second to force the deciding third overtime at 77-77. Patrick Murphy’s free throw 15 seconds into the third overtime was the only point scored in the third OT. All of this off-set another brilliant performance from Saugerties’ eighth-grade phenom, Dior Johnson, who scored 38 points, but fouled out in the second OT. Casey Burke led New Paltz with 24 points, with Holohan finishing with 20.

New Paltz plays Ardsley (Section 1) in the Regional Final (a State Quarterfinal) this Friday, March 9 at SUNY New Paltz at 7 p.m.


The Highland girls defended their Section 9 crown with a 52-31 win over Marlboro in Sunday evening’s Class B tournament final. The Huskies built a 25-12 halftime lead and were led by Bri Rozzi with 21 points, six rebounds and six assists, with Candace McCutcheon hitting for eleven points and on the defensive end, holding Marlboro’s Talaya Lewis scoreless. Sam Garcia had ten rebounds and five blocked shots. Erin Lofaro led the Dukes with 15 points.

Highland (21-1), the seventh-ranked team in the State (Class B), takes on perennial number one Irvington (Section 1) in a State regional game at Beacon High School on Tuesday, March 6 at 5 p.m. (too late for this edition of the New Paltz Times).

Highland’s Candace McCutcheon (3) controls the loose ball, with Bri Rozzi (2), Spackenkill’s Madelaine McCall (22) and Sam Garcia (1) in contention.

Here’s how each got there

Highland ran all over number 8 seed Rhinebeck in last Tuesday’s quarterfinal 57-11, holding the Hawks without a basket until early in the fourth quarter, as Bri Rozzi scored 15 points, with eight rebounds, eight assists and two steals; Sam Garcia 12 points, six rebounds, four assists, six blocks; Candace McCutcheon eight points, four steals; Mia Beck six points; Emily Peterson five points.

On Thursday, homestanding Highland took on number 4 seed Spackenkill, who had defeated Onteora in the quarterfinals, as the Spartans’ Izzy Herrera hit for a career-high 36 points. The Huskies ran out to an early 8-4 lead on a big three by Jayda Jackson, a couple free throws from Rozzi and another three from Peterson. After Herrera hit a three for Spack, McCutcheon hit on a breakaway off a Rozzi feed and Rozzi nailed a long three. It was 13-9 Highland a quarter’s end.

Jackson, who has been in a season-long shooting funk, nailed another three to open the second quarter, and Rozzi hit a jumper along the baseline — it was 18-9. The rest of the quarter was trading baskets and ended at 29-20 Highland. Defensively, Garcia had five blocks at halftime and McCutcheon was smothering Herrera, who had just six points on a couple long three-pointers.

Rozzi opened the second-half with a long three, a couple free throws and another three, as the Huskies opened a 13-point lead at 38-25. Herrera hit a jumper from the baseline, but Garcia moved outside to nail a three, then Jackson and Garcia ran back-to-back screens for a couple of layups (plus a free throw) and it was 46-27. Spack shot six-of-eight free throws to end the quarter, sandwiching a Rozzi runner across the lane, and it was 48-33 at the end of three.

Spack hit for nine points (including a Herrera three) around a Garcia free throw and a Rozzi jumper from the baseline, to cut the lead under 10 at 51-42. So Highland went to its ace, as Rozzi hit a big three and followed that with a couple free throws after a steal, and it was back to a 14-point lead. McCutcheon hit a big three and Rozzi (two-for-four) and Garcia (a pair) free throws to hold the lead, as the Huskies finished off the Spartans 63-50 and move on to play Marlboro (who defeated number two seed Fallsburg in the other semifinal), who they’ve defeated twice already this season.

Rozzi scored 26 points, with six rebounds, eight assists and four steals; Garcia added 12 points, with seven rebounds, four steals and seven blocked shots; McCutcheon added 11 points, 10 rebounds and two steals; Peterson added eight points; with Jackson the two big three’s for six points, plus five rebounds and three steals. Spackenkill’s Herrera had 17 points.

New Paltz got a quarterfinal bye before meeting number four seed Red Hook this past Saturday, defeating the Raiders 70-56, as Axel Rodriguez led the Huguenots with 26 points, with Casey Burke adding 11. Number two seed Saugerties got another remarkable game from eighth-grade phenom Dior Johnson, who scored 38 points (20 in the crucial fourth quarter) in the Sawyers 58-53 Saturday win over Cornwall. Last week Johnson became the youngest player in New York State history to score 1,000 career points. He’s averaging over 30 points-a-game this season.