Here is preview on Martin Luther King Jr.’s return to Glens Falls.
When Martin Luther King Jr. boys basketball coach Scott Green held the team’s first practice of the season this past November, he was met by quite a few new faces in the gym.
In fact, Jermaine Shaw, a senior forward, was the lone holdover from the previous season.
“I’ve been through it before, so I already knew what I was up against,” said Shaw, who has been on the team since his freshman year. “I didn’t know if we would have a good team or a bad team. All I know is you gotta put a 110 percent in the work you do and everything will pay off.”
Four months later the Tigers are two wins away from a Class D state championship.
“It’s humbling,” Green said. “They far exceeded the expectations. Nobody saw it coming.”
The Tigers (13-8) will play Section 5’s University Prep (19-3) in the state semifinals Friday at 10 a.m. at the Glens Falls Civic Center.
Martin Luther King Jr.’s last trip to the state final four came in 2006, one year after it won the state Class D title. The Tigers advanced to the state final where they fell to C.G. Finney, 60-58 in overtime.
“This was a different challenge, in terms of these guys had a shorter period of time to actually get it together,” Green said of his current team. “I think they should be commended based on that. These guys just got together in November. In ’05 and ’06 those guys had been together for two and three years.”
It didn’t take long for the players to realize they were a part of something special.
Junior guard Rajien Griffin, the team’s leading scorer at 21.9 points per game, and Shaw both said they saw the team’s potential after their first game, a 60-56 loss to Croton-Harmon.
“I was new and I didn’t really know how anybody played so I took it one game at a time,” Griffin said. “But from the first game I knew we were going to be a good team because we played a B school and we were right there.”
As the season progressed the team continued to jell. The tipping point came during the playoffs when athletic director Victor Laurenceau implemented a diamond zone defense that the players immediately bought into.
“When (Laurenceau) introduced the diamond, the light bulb went off,” Green said.
As for Friday, Green is just focused on his team continuing to execute what has worked so well for them the entire season.
“I just want to think that what we have will allow us to compete and at the end of the game it’s last man standing,” Green said. “We’re going to go with what got us there and I’m sure they’re going to go with what got them there.”
Class D semifinal
Martin Luther King Jr. (13-8) vs. University Prep (19-3)
When: Friday at 10 a.m.; Where: Glens Falls Civic Center
Key players: Martin Luther King Jr. — Rajien Griffin (6-0), Jr., G; Jermaine Shaw (6-4), Sr., F; Peter Hargrove (5-10), Sr., G. University Prep — Cameron Myles (6-3), So., F; Jordan Marshall (5-11), So., G; Brandon Hunt (5-4), Fr., G.
Outlook: University Prep is a first-year program made up entirely of sophomores, freshmen and eight graders. Youth hasn’t slowed the Griffins down. Marique Simkin, a 5-foot-9 eighth grader, was named tournament MVP after scoring 23 points in the sectional final. Led by Myles, who averages 19 points a game, University Prep is currently ranked second in the state, according to the New York Sportswriters Association. Hunt (13), Marshall (11) and Simkin (10) along with Myles all average double-digit points per game. Griffin leads the Tigers in points per game with 21.7, followed by Hargove (12.9) and Shaw (9.8). Martin Luther King Jr., seventh in the latest state poll, is the lowest ranked team of the four remaining schools.
What’s next: The winner of this game will face either Section 3’s New York Mills (20-3) or Section 2’s Argyle (22-0) in the state championship on Saturday at 5:30 p.m. Argyle and New York Mills are ranked Nos. 2 and 3 in the state, respectively.
Martin Luther King Jr. coach Scott Green on University Prep: “They’re there so they’re good.”
“I’m kind of old school. I want to think that everyone is there for a reason. I just want to think that what we have can allow us to compete and at the end of the game it’s the last man standing.”
“I’m not going to get into a lot of predictions but we’re going to go with what got use there and I’m sure they’re going to go with what got them there.”
“They’re buying what we selling. If we have to make adjustments along the way then we’ll have to make adjustments along the way, but what got us here was this.”
“I’m going to stick with my guys. I’m going to go with what got us here.”