For the girls’ team, the win was proof that Coach Guy Leonard’s system can still succeed without the core group of players who worked it to near perfection during his first four years at the helm. Though the Stateswomen saw their starting unit decimated by graduation last year, they still forged on with a combination of veterans and newcomers.
Coleman was ranked the top team in its class throughout the season, and they proved why in the title game, a 44-26 win over Chateaugay at Hudson Valley Community College in Troy on Sunday. Makenzie Burud, named the tournament’s MVP, outscored Coleman’s opponent all by herself, amassing 27 points to go along with 12 rebounds and seven steals.
Burud scored nine straight points for the Stateswomen to untie a 16-16 second quarter knot, and the team’s defense helped build the lead by holding Chateaugay to one basket over a 13-minute stretch and just eight total second-half points.
Burud’s 27 points led all scorers, with Kate Davis and Nicole Curley each contributing four, and Crystal Juliano and Emily Curley adding three apiece.
Davis, who missed much of the second half after tweaking her knee before returning late in the fourth quarter, said the team overcame any nerves on the trip up the Thruway.
“Going into the state tournament, I was more excited than nervous,” she said. “We started the day off really well by decorating our bus and listening to music, so it distracted me from all the nervousness before we got there.”
Coleman, who closed out the season 20-2 overall, didn’t sleepwalk through the season, often playing tough opponents along the way. It all served as preparation for the Final Four.
“We had a difficult schedule that prepared us for what we had to face last weekend,” Davis said. “I knew how amped we were going to be for those games and we just wanted to give everything we had in us. We were coached extremely well, which was the ultimate key to what we accomplished. All of us were determined and weren’t going to give up without putting up a fight.”
Though the Stateswomen continued adding to their lead over the second half, Davis said it really didn’t sink in that they’d won the state championship until it had actually happened.
“It felt amazing to actually win the state title,” she said. “All of the hard work, the time and everything we put into this season immediately paid off when the final seconds of the clock ran out and the crowd went crazy. It was an awesome feeling to actually have accomplished what we had dreamed of the whole ride. We never expected at the beginning of the season that that was where it would’ve taken us.”
Coleman advanced to the title game with a 47-31 win over South Kortright on day earlier. The game saw the two top-ranked Class D teams in the state battle it out to move on. Burud again led the team, collecting 13 points, 15 rebounds, six assists and four steals. Davis (10 points, five rebounds), Nicole Curley (nine points, six rebounds), Emily Curley (seven points, 10 rebounds, three steals) and Kate Shults (six points, four steals, four assists) all had major contributions.
“I felt that we were going to advance to the final game after half time in the semis,” Davis said. “We knew that we needed a run to get us ahead and ultimately wear the opposing team down. We knew what was at stake.”
The future looks bright for the Stateswomen, who will lose just one player — Dayna Callahan — to graduation. Davis said she’s looking forward to returning in her senior year with an eye on defending their title.
“Being a part of this team and this success was so worthwhile,” Davis said. “Our team chemistry was amazing. I wouldn’t have wanted to be a part of any other team to win the state title. We had a really fun year while working hard, and it paid off for us. I couldn’t be happier.”
Statesmen ground by Mills
For the boys, the road to the Final Four was bumpier: They finished the season 13-10, though none of what had happened before mattered once they stepped onto the court in the Class D title game against undefeated New York Mills last Saturday. The Statesmen had just completed a stunning semifinal win one night earlier, and while they had momentum on their side, they weren’t able to turn it into a championship.
In fact, it took Coleman some time to get rolling in the finale. After taking a 6-2 early lead, the Statesmen went cold, with Mills going on a 15-0 run that took them deep into the second quarter. Coleman rallied late, pulling to within four in the final frame, but they simply didn’t have enough left in the tank to close it out.
“We were confident against Mills watching some tape, and knowing what we had to do to win,” said reserve guard Justin Bressack. “It was hard losing. We really felt we were going to win the game until the end of the fourth quarter.”
Senior center/forward Chris Chatelain led Coleman with 21 points and 14 rebounds, but the combination of Mills’ MVP Fred Russ (17 points, 20 rebounds) and Matt Welch (20 points, 11 rebounds) proved too much for the Statesmen to overcome.
“To this day I know we are the more talented team,” said senior swingman Tom Murphy. “We played harder than them, but their size proved too much in the end. They were the better team on that given day.”
Murphy was the linchpin in the team’s semifinal victory, a 71-70 double overtime thriller against C.G. Finney won by Murphy from the free throw line with 0.2 seconds remaining.
“I was confident throughout the fourth quarter as well as overtime that we would win the game, but when I was fouled with 0.2 seconds left in the second overtime, I knew I wasn’t going to miss,” Murphy said.
The foul shot came after Coleman grabbed a defensive rebound and Murphy dribbled toward half-court with the hopes of launching a desperation shot. At worst, the Statesmen were headed into a third overtime period, but instead Murphy was fouled by Finney’s Otis Brown. After sinking the first free throw to take the lead, Murphy wisely bounced the second opportunity off the backboard, ensuring time ran out with the victory at hand.
Chatelain said he knew the game was won the moment Murphy was fouled.
“(It was) when Tom Murphy went to the free throw line with 0.2 seconds left on the clock,” he said. “I always felt we can beat them, just takes patience and hard effort.”
The Statesmen employed a balanced attack in the semifinal win over Finney, with Ben Mesuda’s 27 points leading the way. Donard Timbrouck (17 points), Chatelain (14 points) and Murphy (10 points) all made significant contributions.
It was the second straight season the Statesmen made it to the Class D title game only to come away empty-handed. If they hope to solve the final piece of the puzzle, they’ll have to do so without players like Chatelain, Mesuda and Murphy.
“It’s always difficult to lose a game, especially one of that magnitude, but after a while I realized I had a great run and have attended two state championships,” Murphy said. “Growing up in Kingston, most of my KHS friends have never made it out of Sections. This team was a very special team; we battled through adversity all year and learned to succeed without being physically gifted when it comes to height. I felt like a mentor to some of the younger players and watched them develop into great players and teammates.”