Here’s Rick Carpiniello’s column on a state-final run that will be remembered around Section 1 for a long time:
GLENS FALLS — Lots of teams talk about how “nobody believed in us; nobody gave us a chance,” when in fact, that’s rarely true.
When the New Rochelle basketball team talks about where it was Sunday — in a state Class AA championship game it would lose to Section 5’s Bishop Kearney, 45-39 — it can honestly say those things.
Because not very long ago at all, New Rochelle was 8-9 after losing to Mount Vernon for the second time during the regular season. And nobody believed in the Huguenots, nobody gave them a chance.
That wasn’t disrespect. It was just simple fact. Why would anybody believe? Why would anybody give the Huguenots a shot in the Section 1 tournament as the No. 9 seed; a tournament that Mount Vernon had seven years in a row?
Right. Nobody would.
Then came “The Shot,” or in this viral age, “The Shot Seen ’Round the World.” Khalil Edney, a state championship quarterback a few months earlier, tossing in a 60-foot buzzer-beater as New Rochelle wiped out a late 10-point Mount Vernon lead at County Center, making champs of the Huguenots.
“The shot was magical, I guess, but after that we had to prove to everybody that it wasn’t just a matter of the shot; that we deserved to be here,” Edney said, a cut from a Bishop Kearney elbow still bloody by his left eye, and tears still coming from both.
“It was maybe magic to the fans and the media, but to us it was just our desire to win.”
Those kids, Edney and the basketball team’s star, Joe Clarke — also a crucial piece of New Ro’s state football champ, as was Terrence Holden — did a ridiculous day of media blitz, including a TV tour in New York City and a mind-numbing press conference at the school the next day, then had to begin the state tournament the following day. New Ro won that one, then won another game late, as Edney set up Clarke, who made a three-point play against Kingston, with 10.2 seconds left to reach the state final four.
Just as, in November, Edney-to-Clarke for a 12-yard touchdown beat Shaker with 30 seconds left, Clarke following that with a big tackle on the ensuing kickoff (wearing his kicking shoe), and an interception to seal the state semifinal win that sent the Huguenots to Syracuse.
Comparisons abounded. In 2004-05, New Ro, coming off a state football title in ’03, reached the football final again, with Ray Rice and Geoff McDermott (and Courtney Greene and a list of D-1 footballers), then Rice and McDermott teamed in hoops to beat Mount Vernon at the County Center and reached the state championship game, only to lose to an unbelievable Niagara Falls team with Jonny Flynn and Paul Harris.
This New Ro basketball team, and this New Ro football team, probably weren’t as good as those ’04-05 teams, nor was the current Mount Vernon team; and the Bishop Kearney team it faced Sunday, though loaded with height and skill, probably wasn’t as good as Niagara Falls back then. In fact, you could argue, this New Ro team may not be as good as its predecessor, with P.J. Torres and Antoine Mason, which couldn’t get by Mount Vernon.
If “The Shot” doesn’t go in, there’s probably a quote from first-year coach Rasaun Young somewhere in the next day’s papers, and that’s that. Fade to memory.
“That last shot, we call it ‘The Shot’ and that was tremendous,” Young said Sunday. “But a lot of people forget the last three minutes that led up to that shot, and they forget about Joe Clarke’s (taking a) charge, Derek Dorn’s offensive rebound. … They’re memorable moments for the kids.”
He also said, “They’re great kids, man.”
They were in a state final, overmatched by the opponent’s size, yet still in it, down by three late. Clarke was being Clarke, which is to say, heroic to the end.
“It was a great run for us,” Clarke said, sniffing back tears. “We weren’t expected to make it to the state championship. We weren’t expected to get out of our section.
“At (8-9) nobody thought Glens Falls was realistic for us, but we just kept our heads and played with heart and we made it to Glens Falls and made it to the state championship. We fell short, but it was one great season for us.”
One nobody would have believed, one not many will forget.