NEWBURGH – It was with heavy hearts that Poughkeepsie entered this basketball season.
Following an offseason marred by controversy and tragedy, the players, emotionally worn, said the court would serve as their sanctuary. It would be an escape from a reality they fast learned can be cruel.
Mo’Quez Dickens said in December, not long after attending his second funeral of the year, that there was more significance to this season because Pioneers needed to help heal the community and “make our angels proud.”
To that end: Mission accomplished.
Poughkeepsie rallied late and stunned top-seeded Goshen High School, 100-92, in overtime to win the Section 9 Class A championship at Mount Saint Mary College on Sunday.
Poughkeepsie was blitzed in the second half by Goshen’s outside shooting and, after leading from the opening possession, trailed by as many as 69-57 with seven minutes remaining. But the third-seeded Pioneers roared back late and forced overtime when Davontrey Thomas’s two free throws tied it at 83 with 15 seconds left.
Marvin Lunsford’s jumper gave Poughkeepsie a 1-point lead in overtime, then Antawone West (19 points) hit a three to make it 90-86, and the Pioneers took control. Free throws in the final minute helped them pull away.
“At the start of the season, I didn’t think we could make it this far,” said Lunsford, who scored 21 points. “This feeling is amazing.”
Poughkeepsie (14-7), which won a Section 1 title in 2013, advances to face the Section 4 champs Johnson City in a regional semifinal on Wednesday, 7 p.m. at SUNY New Paltz.
The shooting death of former teammate Caval Haylett last March led off a tumultuous offseason that saw an unexpected coaching change that drew the ire of the community, and the passing of some players’ loved ones.
“This wasn’t just for us,” Dickens said on Sunday. “The community needed this.”
Stephen Haynes: firstname.lastname@example.org, 845-437-4826, Twitter: @StephenHaynes4