As long as Ben Cronin could get into the paint and take control on the boards, the Henninger boys basketball team stood a great chance of earning a state Class AA championship.
First, though, the Black Knights had to get the ball inside -- and the inability to do so for long periods of time in last Saturday's AA regional final at Hudson Valley Community College in Troy against Section II champion Bishop Maginn proved to be the team's undoing.
Maginn, utilizing constant defensive pressure, took charge in the second quarter and never let Henninger catch up, which led to a 56-50 defeat as Maginn returned to the state final four in Glens Falls for the second year in a row.
True, big men like the 7-1 Cronin draw most of the attention, but any basketball coach or fan will point out that guard play is the key to victory. Indeed, it was the great all-around work done by Henninger's pair of perimeter stars, Kihary Blue and Quanate Elijah, that served as the basis for the Black Knights' run to the Section III Class AA title.
So it was no small irony that Henninger would meet its match in Maginn, for the Golden Griffins lacked anyone close to Cronin in terms of height and skill, but made up for it by applying all-out pressure and using speed to burn the opposition.
At first, it looked like Cronin was bound to set new career marks, as he poured in Henninger's first nine points. However, Maginn kept pace, and sneaked into a 13-12 lead by the end of the first quarter.
They kept exchanging baskets until late in the half, when Henninger, up 18-16, began to pay for the rash of turnovers the Golden Griffins were forcing.
Maginn reeled off nine unanswered points to seize the lead, all of it points by guards Taran Buie and Khaliq Gross. The 11-2 run to close the half left the Black Knights behind, 27-20, going to the break.