Kingston basketball team wins Section title, plays in Final Four on Friday

KHS seniors Garrett Warnecke, Daivel Jackson, Brian Moore (holding the Section champion plaque) Jimmy Moot, Chris Bamba and Amir Ridge celebrate the win. (Photos by Phyllis McCabe)

The Kingston High School boys’ varsity basketball team is two wins away from the state championship. Last week the team took care of business, winning their first Section IX, Class AA title in six years, and then punched their ticket to the final four with a commanding win over a perennial powerhouse.

The Tigers decimated Mount Vernon 69-38 in the Class AA regional final on Saturday, March 9 at SUNY New Paltz, a stunning result that saw Kingston firing on all cylinders. As with most of the team’s successes, the game ran through Brian Moore, but saw key contributions come from up and down the roster.

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“He’s more than a leader,” said Kingston Coach Ron Kelder of Moore. “He’s a leader on and off the floor, he’s a leader in practice. He understands the game and he understands what it takes to be a team player. And he also understands when teams are going to allow him to get up in his points and takes advantage of it. But he also is very unselfish and gets the ball to open people when other teams look to double-team him to take the ball out of his hands.”

KHS senior Brian Moore being guarded by Mount Vernon player Charles Lovett.

Moore amassed 27 points to lead all scorers to go with four assists and four rebounds. Other Tiger contributions came from Daivel Jackson (10 points, three rebounds, three blocks), Jimmy Moot (nine points, six rebounds, two blocks), Shy’quan Royal (seven points, seven rebounds, five assists), Brady Short (six points, four rebounds, three steals, two assists), Chris Bamba (four points, four rebounds), Garrett Warnecke (three points, three rebounds, one block) and Clayton Petillo (three points).

“There wasn’t a kid that didn’t play well in that game,” said Kelder. “I only hope it keeps carrying over.”

Kingston’s defense set the tone from the opening tip, with Mount Vernon being held to just six first quarter points, followed by just a single basket during the first six minutes of the second quarter. Kingston carried a 35-15 lead into intermission and they never looked back.

The Tigers made the most of their opportunities, scoring 27 points on 20 Mount Vernon turnovers. Kingston’s defense also upended their opponents’ game plan, holding its one-two punch Charles Lovett and Troy Hupstead to 10 and seven points respectively.

Kelder credited preparation and execution for the team’s lopsided win against Mount Vernon.

“They’re the 11-time state champ,” Kelder said. “But we had a good prep, and the kids bought into the prep and we executed as well as we have all year long. The kids were determined to play at a high level and we embraced it.”

Middies beat

The Tigers advanced to the regional final by winning their first sectional title since 2013 on Wednesday, March 6, a 61-47 triumph over Middletown, a game also held at SUNY New Paltz. Middletown proved a tougher opponent than Mount Vernon, leading 33-29 in the third quarter before Kingston made their move.

Moore (25 points), Short (12 points), Moot (10 points), Chris Bamba (eight points) and Royal (six points, nine rebounds) all made major offensive contributions in the win.

Next up for the Tigers is a state semifinal matchup against Brentwood, the Section XI champ out of Long Island, on Friday, March 15 at the Floyd L. Maines Veterans Memorial Arena in Binghamton. The winner of that game will move on to the state final on the same court against the winner of a game between Section VI champion Niagara Falls and Section III champ West Genesee. That semifinal will be played just before the Tigers take on Brentwood.

The Tigers head to Binghamton on a 10-game win streak and a 21-2 overall record for the 2018-19 season. Kingston hopes to tack on two more wins before it’s all over.

“You always see yourself being successful, but I don’t think you’d ever think we’d be in the position we’re in right now,” said Kelder, adding that the team appears to be locked in. “So far this week we’ve got a good prep going. We’ve got a lot of info and we’re just trying to get ready for that big game against Brentwood on Friday.”

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