It was sloppy. It was uneven. It was not great basketball…but it was a great game none-the-less, as New Paltz defeated Marlboro on February 25 in the semifinal round of the MHAL Final Four 58-56.
The Huguenots rebounded from a sluggish first quarter that saw them down 15-6 until Justin DeMaria buried a long three-pointer from the corner with 0:02 left on the clock; and saw them fall behind 22-11 early in the second quarter, before DeMaria and Tony Drewnowski hit back-to-back three’s, Jack Rubin a putback of a DeMaria miss and DeMaria — once again — nailing a long three with little time (0:12) left in the half.
New Paltz, playing most of the first and all of the second quarter without point guard Matt Simmons — an injured arm — struggled, as DeMaria was forced to bring the ball up-court and Patrick Murphy — the 6-8 inside presence — was limited in his first game back from an ankle injury. The Huguenots, who played ferocious defense, held the Dukes at bay when the game could have gotten away, and left the court at halftime tied at 22-22.
The second-half was another game entirely, as both teams found their groove and the pace quickened, with Marlboro — led by sophomore guard Korbyn Samuels — keeping up with run-and-gun New Paltz. It was back-and-forth the rest of the way, with booming three’s by Jackson Soper and DeMaria to end the third quarter giving the Huguenots a 36-34 lead.
DeMaria opened the final eight minutes with yet another three, but was answered by Marlboro’s Matt Drake. Murphy nailed a side-jumper, but Schwarzbeck hit on a drive. Soper hit a layup off a great feed from Jordan Cook, but Samuels hit on a drive…and it was 43-41 New Paltz. DeMaria then hit his fifth three of the game and on the Huguenots’ next possession after a Dukes’ miss, was fouled on his three-point attempt, calmly stepped to the line…and made all three. His six-point splurge put New Paltz in the driver’s seat 49-41. Then it was Murphy’s turn, hitting a turn-around jumper from the lane following a pair of Samuels’ free throws, then following a Samuels drive with a jumper from the line. It was 53-45 with 1:51 left in the game.
Here, scrappy Marlboro got five points from Drake (a three and a side jumper), before Murphy hit the shot of the night — a huge three-pointer from the top of the key with the clock below 1:00 to play — putting New Paltz up 56-50. Samuels hit one-of-two free throws and on Marlboro’s next possession after a New Paltz miss, Murphy made the play of the night – blocking Samuels drive in the lane. It was a five-point game with 0:23 left.
The Dukes’ CJ Faircloth put back a Schwarzbeck miss with 0:03.7 to play. DeMaria was fouled immediately and sank both free throws with 0:03 left, with Samuels half-court three at the buzzer the final points.
DeMaria led New Paltz with 22 points, with Murphy with 16 (plus nine rebounds) Samuels scored 20 for Marlboro.
And it took 20 years, but the Huguenots finally won their second MHAL title — this after being in their third straight Final Four and losing in the Final two years in a row — beating Millbrook 64-43 on February 28, with Patrick Murphy — seemingly fully recovered from ankle issues that held him to just eight games played this season — leading the way with 17 points and 12 rebounds, with Justin DeMaria with 15 and Jackson Soper 14.
Section 9 boys’ seedings
Number five Red Hook is at number four New Paltz (14-6) on Monday, March 2 at 6 p.m.; the winner facing number one Minisink Valley on Wednesday, March 4 at 6 p.m.; with the Class A boys’ final on Saturday, March 7 at Mount St. Mary’s in Newburgh at 4 p.m.
Section 9 girls’ seedings
The New Paltz girls readied themselves for the Section 9 tournament with crossover wins over Rondout on Tuesday 50-27 and Chester on Wednesday 53-33, with Ruby Santos continuing her hot hand with 23 points, and Daijah Bell adding ten against Rondout; and Bell with 18 and Santos 15 against Chester. New Paltz finished the regular season at 15-5.
Number six New Paltz is at number three Warwick on Monday, March 2; the winner playing the winner of number seven Saugerties at number two FDR at the home of the higher seed on Wednesday, March 4 at 6 p.m.; with the Class A girls final on Saturday, March 7 at Mount St. Mary’s at 2 p.m.