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Rams lived up to big billing on way to state title

Up front, senior Nick Pascale brought a 6-10 frame and plenty of toughness, traits that helped him earn a scholarship to attend Colgate University next fall. He became even more effective after 6-7 senior Marcus Williams entered the starting lineup at mid-season, with Mitchell Howe coming off the bench at key times when Pascale or Williams needed a breather.

As Triche ran the show in the backcourt, versatile swing players Mickey Davis and Alshwan Hymes each accepted their roles, too. Davis was a smooth and steady scorer, while Hymes became even more lethal after giving up his starting spot. As a sixth man, Hymes brought energy and an ability to take over a game, something that proved handy, especially in the post-season.

And whenever a big shot was needed, Greg Stern would deliver. Stern's 3-pointers prompted a "Stern-O-Matic!" chant from the J-D student section at each game.

Defensively, everyone at J-D could deliver, too. Whether it was normal man-to-man pressure or the occasional zone, the Rams handled whatever an opponent threw at them, and when it was needed, the team's full-court press produced led to turnovers and big scoring spurts.

With all this talent assembled, head coach Bob McKenney had the exact opposite dilemma than he faced in 2004. Back then, the Red Rams had some star power (Andy Rautins would end up at Syracuse University), but also an extra ingredient of great chemistry that allowed it to rise above its talent level and play at a higher level when it was needed.

Here, the talent level wasn't a problem at all for McKenney. It was just a matter of keeping all the stars happy and making them buy into a winning concept -- something that didn't prove difficult at all, given how hungry everyone was for a championship.

All went fine at the start, as the Rams again won its annual Tip-Off Tournament, then achieved a huge prize Dec. 8 when it beat Section II power Bishop Maginn in Glens Falls. That same Maginn team would later win the state Class AA championship.

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