The feeling now is reminiscent of when Our Lady of Lourdes High School last made a state final four.
“It feels like you’re on top of the world and you can’t lose,” senior Corey Mullaly said. “No matter how many odds are stacked against you.”
The Lourdes boys basketball team takes on Southampton of Long Island at 10:45 a.m. Saturday in a Class A state semifinal at the Floyd L. Maines Veterans Memorial Arena in Binghamton.
The winner advances to face Irondequoit or Jamesville-Dewitt in the final on Sunday.
Mullaly was a defensive back on the Warriors’ football team that stunned everyone in the autumn of 2015, pulling a series of upsets to reach its first state final. He now is a forward on the basketball team that has pulled a series of upsets to make its first state semifinal.
Lourdes’ basketball team had never advanced past the regional round. The Warriors last won the Section 1 championship in 2013, but lost their next game.
The football team trekked up Route 17 to Syracuse on Thanksgiving for the big game against South Park. This time, the basketball team traveled up Route 17 to Binghamton on St. Patrick’s Day to face Southampton.
There certainly are some eerie similarities.
“Yeah,” Mullaly said, “but I’m really hoping we win it all this time.”
To do so, the Warriors (19-6) will first have to dispatch a sharp-shooting Southampton squad that boasts a balanced lineup with several scorers.
Lourdes seeks to become only the third team from Dutchess County to win a boys basketball state championship. Poughkeepsie won a Class B title in 1995, and Millbrook took Class D in 1999.
To get this far, the Warriors beat Section 1 powers Byram Hills and Tappan Zee, two of the most highly-regarded programs in the state. So this team, it will insist, is battle-tested and will face all challenges with aplomb.
Getting to know Southampton
Southampton (21-3) had won the previous three Long Island Class B championships before an enrollment bump shifted them to Class A this year. The Mariners of Section 11 beat defending Class A state champ Elmont, 60-53, last week to capture another Long Island title.
Southampton lost to Marlboro, 79-65, in the Class B regional final last season. The Mariners last made it to the state semifinal in 1999, when they won their only state championship.
The Mariners have won 11 of their last 12 games and the loss, two weeks ago, was to a Class AA opponent in the Suffolk “overall” title game — an extra contest before the teams’ respective Long Island championship games.
Southampton averages 76.5 points per game with five players scoring in double figures. Perhaps most alarming for an opponent is that four of them shoot well from the perimeter.
“Our best defense is man-to-man,” Lourdes coach Jim Santoro said. “We have to stay aware of who the shooters are and keep track of where they are on the court.”
Andre Franklin is their leading scorer at 15.7 points and is averaging 2.5 three-pointers made per game. He had 29 points against Elmont, including seven 3s. Chad Pike is averaging 13.8 points and 2.6 threes made.
There’s also Elijah Wingfield, who is averaging 12.1 points and has hit 32 threes, and Timmy Alejo averaging 11.2 points with 36 made threes. Even 6-foot-4 Aaron Krzyzewski has drained 18 threes. And, you get the idea.
“It’s going to be difficult to contain them,” guard Kevin Townes admitted. “The past few teams we’ve faced didn’t have many great shooters, so this is a change. We’re gonna have to close out on them, and we can’t let them penetrate and kick out for open shots.”
Lourdes held an athletic Poughkeepsie team to 46 points in the regional final last week, after the Pioneers entered averaging 86 points in their previous two playoff contests.
“We’ll have to adjust to how we provide help (defensively),” Santoro said. “We have to make sure we don’t bring help and leave an unchecked shooter alone for a kick-out.”
Mismatch in the middle
The Warriors also have their own cadre of shooters and a slew of good athletes who excel in transition. Townes, Joe Heavey, Brady Hilderbrand, Aidan Hilderbrand and John Arceri can do damage from the perimeter.
The Mariners’ best player, however, is Micah Snowden, a 6-foot-3 sophomore averaging 14.3 points. He also must cover Lourdes’ James Anozie in the post. That, likely, will be the marquee matchup as the Warriors look to feature their 6-foot-5 center.
Southampton doesn’t have a player who matches up well physically with Anozie. His inside presence could be the Warriors’ offensive counter to the outside shooting.
“He’s an advantage no matter who we’re facing,” Santoro said of Anozie, a senior who scored his 1,500th career point in February. “James is a unique player and anybody that faces us will have to make adjustments to defend him.”
Opponents haven’t been able to do much against him this postseason and the big man has dominated the low post with his size, power and an array of moves. The Warriors will need that to continue.
“I think James is gonna go to work on them,” point guard Brady Hilderbrand said. “He’s determined and we’re ready to go.”
Anozie, who was named the Journal’s Player of the Year last season, said he relishes the challenge and likes being relied on. During the playoffs, his teammates have goaded him before games, chanting the name of the opposing team’s center. That likely will continue Saturday.
“Their tallest guy is Micah Snowden,” Anozie said. “I’ve got to give him the work.”
Mullaly said he doesn’t have much advice for his teammates before the game. But he has warned that the emotions will run high.
“I think you need to relish the moment,” he said. “Nerves are a part of that and it’s unavoidable. But that’s sometimes a good thing. I want them to experience it all firsthand and take it in.”
Stephen Haynes: firstname.lastname@example.org, 845-437-4826, Twitter: @StephenHaynes4
Class A state semifinals
Where: Floyd L. Maines Veterans Memorial Arena, Binghamton
Who: Section 5’s Irondequoit vs. Section 3’s Jamesville-DeWitt at 9 a.m., Section 1’s Our Lady of Lourdes vs. Section 11’s Southampton at 10:45 a.m.
Finals: Sunday at noon
Live updates: Follow Journal reporter Stephen Haynes on Twitter, @StephenHaynes4, for the latest news