Mar 11, 2008 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
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.
To have any chance at a comeback, Henninger had to cut down on the turnovers after handing the ball over 15 times in the first half.
Sure enough, the Black Knights did tighten up, with just five turnovers the rest of the way. What’s more, Cronin regained his footing after a scoreless second period, joining Blue, Elijah and Glenn Williams as they all tried to help Henninger rally.
But the Golden Griffins drew upon its previous state playoff experience to weather everything Henninger threw at them, never letting the Black Knights get closer than four and brining an end to Cronin’s high-school career.
In defeat, Cronin went out in a big way, nearly getting a triple-double as he got 17 points, 13 rebounds and eight blocks. Blue had 12 points, while Williams had eight points and Elijah added seven points.
Buie, with 16 points, led a varied Maginn attack as Terron Victoria contributed 14 points, Gross earned 11 points and James Torres gained eight points. Maginn meets Mount Vernon, the team it lost to in last year’s state title game, Saturday in the AA state semifinals. The winner will face Niagara Falls or Baldwin for the championship Sunday afternoon.
As for Henninger, it concluded a 21-3 campaign where it overcame two regular-season defeats to Utica Proctor by beating the Raiders for the Class AA title.
Now Cronin heads off to the University of Michigan. Elijah, Williams, Brian Wilson, Osvaldo Lara, Robbie Keefe and Rich Hunter depart, too, leaving Blue and Jermaine Taylor as the main returning threats in 2008-09 as Henninger looks to repeat without many of the pieces that got them to the top in the first place.