If you’re one of the many coaches on the Mount Vernon basketball staff, yesterday was the day where your vision for this team became a reality and your work this season was more justified than ever. Their Knights were arguably never more balanced than in Saturday’s state semifinal, when their bench outscored the starters by three points and outscored the Half Hollow Hills reserves a whopping 36-2.
It has been a long, often frustrating road to this point for the Mount Vernon supporting cast. And, no offense, but I had to laugh at some of our readers’ comments following the state semifinal. Less than two months ago — especially after the SNY Tournament — people offered the exact opposite critique, saying the Knights were a one-man team. That was probably because the team struggled even as its top player scored 22 points against the No. 1 or 2 team in the country, which (critics should probably note) is more than three times as many as the nation’s No. 1 or 2 recruit did a little over a week ago.
In fairness, as its team enters the state final for the first time in three years, the truth about Mount Vernon may be that it has been strengthened playing against top competition. I know Bob Cimmino believes that to be the case, as he said in today’s game story, and he sure looked to be right yesterday. How do I think the emergence of the bench will affect today’s championship? You’re about to find out.
Last round: 2-0
Class AA state championship game
Mount Vernon vs. Jamestown (Section 6), at the Glens Falls Civic Center, 3:15 p.m. — The challenge Mount Vernon faces today is real. No team knocks off the defending state champ without cause, and for Jamestown the cause is a lot about 6-1 swingman Jaysean Paige and 6-3 forward Darin Butts. Paige in particular is extremely explosive. The junior caught a pass from the left corner as he slashed down the middle of the paint and spun and dunked it. Even with Emile Blackman and Chris Cox doing their thing in the air yesterday, I thought Paige’s play was the most impressive of the tournament. But look at Mount Vernon’s options on the wing. Horace Copeland, Isaiah Cousins, Randy Stephens and perhaps a taste of bulldog Adam Malheur. That’s a lot of talent to throw at a top wing player, and to do it in waves.
It’s typical of what has the Knights thriving in the postseason. The heroes are aplenty, with Jamell Walker, Khalid Samuels, Josh Doughty, Stephens, Jarrel Marshall and Cousins all taking turns as a superduper role player. Who’s turn will it be today? Who knows? But expect someone to emerge.
Also, you can almost guarantee a more formidable performance today from Jabarie Hinds. Jamestown doesn’t have a great matchup for him in its lineup. I don’t think it can afford to take Paige that far away from the backboard.
A win would mean something for Mount Vernon that is probably already true but would be inarguable with a record ninth state title. It would mark the program officially as the best in NYSPHSAA history regardless of class. The pick? Mount Vernon 68, Jamestown 60