Now, it’s on to Tappan Zee, which faces the prospect of taking its unbeaten record up against a four-time defending state champ that features the state’s best player: Jamesville-DeWitt and DeJuan Coleman. J-D and its 6-foot-10 Mr. Basketball will try to make state history this weekend. First, the Red Rams must part the Red Sea and decipher TZ’s disciplined, hard-working defense.
Here’s a look at the game, followed by some comments from Tappan Zee coach George Gaine:
Class A state semifinal
Tappan Zee (24-0) vs. Section 3’s Jamesville-DeWitt (21-2)
When: Saturday, 10:45 a.m.
Where: Glens Falls Civic Center
Key players: Tappan Zee – Pat Peterson (6-1), Sr., G; Billy O’Shea (6-1), Sr., F; Joe Letizia (5-8), Jr., G; Brian McLaughlin (6-0), Sr., G; Eric Casey (6-5), Jr., C; Brendan Donohue (6-3), Jr., F. Jamesville-DeWitt – DeJuan Coleman (6-10), Sr., F; Tyler Cavanaugh (6-9), Sr., F; Pete Drescher (6-2), Sr., G; Rasheed Baker (5-8), So., G; Jafar Kinsey (6-1), So., G.
How they got here: Tappan Zee won its second Section 1 title in three years and reached its first-ever final four thanks to strong second half play. The Dutchmen beat Seton Catholic Central 51-27 in the regional semifinal and followed with a 53-34 win over Marlboro in the regional final. Jamesville-DeWitt will vie for its record fifth straight state title after beating Franklin 72-41 in the regional semifinals and Scotia-Glenville 59-45 in the regional final.
Outlook: Even for unbeaten Tappan Zee, this is a challenge unlike any other. Jamesville-DeWitt is a four-time defending state champion on the verge of history. No team in New York has ever won five straight state crowns. Of course, few teams in Glens Falls have ever been blessed with a duo of forwards like Coleman and Cavanaugh. The 275-pound Coleman has committed to Syracuse, is the No. 13-ranked prospect in the country (according to ESPN) and was just named New York’s “Mr. Basketball.” The rangy Cavanaugh has committed to Wake Forest and is among the state’s top 10 senior recruits. The Dutchmen will have to overcome the size and general brilliance of the two stars with the intensity and balance of its team. They’ll need Peterson, Letizia and McLaughlin to make shots and will rely on Donohue and O’Shea to compete against the big men and snare some rebounds. “We’re just going to try to make them turn the ball over, force bad shots and rebound,” Peterson said. “We can’t let them get too many shots.”
Next up: The winner will meet either Section 5’s Bishop Kearney or Section 11’s Harborfields Sunday at 1:30 p.m. at the Civic Center for the state championship.
A COACH’S TAKE
Tappan Zee coach George Gaine on Jamesville-DeWitt:
“Obviously, they’re well coached. They have extremely good players. They play well off their two high-level college players. It’s something we really haven’t faced as a whole all year. We’ve played teams that have played real hard. We’ve played teams that have one or two really skilled players, but their length and height is something we haven’t seen.”
“It’s unchartered territory. We’re trying different things these three days and seeing what sticks with our group. We have to tweak what we’ve been doing. I don’t want to do a 360 where we’re going away from what got us to this point.”
“We’re back to where we were two years ago as the seven-seed. Our guys are battled tested. They’ve seen it all in terms of emotions. I think they’ll play with the right emotion. They’ll go in knowing this team’s a four-time state champion and we are the underdog, but I think they’ll thrive in that situation.”
THE PLAYERS’ PERSPECTIVE
Here’s TZ senior Pat Peterson on the matchup:
“Anything can happen with this team. The way we buckle down and play defense, I feel very confident. We’re just going to give It our all. We have nothing to lose. They have everything to lose.”
“I truly do believe. We have a very talented team. Defense is a group effort. I don’t think they’ve seen anything like us on defense. It should be interesting when we double down to see how their big guys react.”
“We’re just going to try to make them turn the ball over, force bad shots and rebound. We can’t let them get too many shots.”
Here’s TZ senior Brian McLaughlin on the matchup:
“They’re good. They’re kind of built up to be untouchable, but we’re coming in with the mindset the we’re going to win even though we’re an underdog. We’re just going to play with a chip on our shoulder and show them something they haven’t seen all year. It’s going to be tough, but I think we can get it done.”
“They have two great players. Basketball’s five on five. It’s going to come down to all five of our guys against all five of their guys. Hopefully, overall, we can get it done.”
“We definitely feel like we’re the underdog. Being undefeated is great, but right now that means nothing to us. It’s in the past. We definitely believe we can win. We know what we’re capable of. Coach knows what we’re capable of. The best part is, we know what each other is capable of.”