Pine Plains point guard Justin Cooper has been to Glens Falls for the state final four for the past five years, just as a fan.
This could have been us, he always thought.
Now, it is.
Pine Plains (Section 9) advanced to the state semifinals for the first time in school history, beating Section 11 champion Stony Brook School 44-39 in a boys basketball Class C regional final at SUNY Old Westbury on Saturday.
“I’ve enjoyed going up there and it’s something I’ve dreamed about,” said Cooper, who had 15 points and four assists. “I’m glad it finally came true. We’ve got to work hard in practice this week and hopefully we come out with a couple of wins up there.”
The last team from Dutchess County to win a state title was Millbrook in Class D in 1999.
Pine Plains, which won its 18th straight game, will face undefeated Section 6 champion Silver Creek (23-0) on Friday at 1:30 p.m. at Glens Falls Civic Center. The winner of that semifinal advances to Saturday’s 7:15 p.m. state title game.
“It’s just amazing,” said Pine Plains coach Brendan LoBrutto, a 1999 graduate of Pine Plains’ Stissing Mountain High School. “I’m just so happy for these kids. I don’t even know if they realize how special it is right now and how special it is for the community.”
Pine Plains led 12-3 through one period, holding the Bears to one field goal in the first quarter. Stony Brook School (16-5) held on to the ball for most of the shot clock on almost every possession, dipping to under 10 seconds on the clock 14 times in the game, including 12 times in the first half.
Stony Brook School was aggressive on defense and caught Pine Plains on a poor shooting day. The Bears outscored the Bombers 7-1 in the second quarter and held Pine Plains without a field goal over a span of 10:14 bridging the first and third quarters.
“We got them down to one or two on the shot clock and they hit a couple of big buckets,” Cooper said. “We knew if we played well on defense we’d be fine and eventually hit our shots. It worked out for us.”
After Stony Brook School’s Marco Masakayan (game-high 22 points) hit back-to-back free throws to bring the Bears to within one point of the Bombers in the first minute of the third quarter, Pine Plains responded. Cooper and Zach Lydon (16 points, eight rebounds) hit back-to-back 3s. Pine Plains ended the quarter on an 11-0 run and took a 30-17 lead into the fourth quarter.
“We had a lot of turnovers in the beginning and it felt weird out here tonight. I don’t know why,” Lydon said. “We weren’t playing (like) ourselves.”
At halftime, Lydon said, the Bombers reassured themselves that they had the game.
“Pretty much just slow it down, calm down, we have the game,” Lydon said. “We’ve got to keep our composure and play smart.”
“I’ve got to give Stony Brook credit for their defense, that was definitely part of it,” LoBrutto said. “We just woke up and started playing our game. They kind of lulled us to sleep. The ball wasn’t falling. I’ve been telling these guys all year, just take a deep breath and play ball. Don’t think, just react.”
Stony Brook School surged in the final period with Masakayan scoring 10 in the final frame, getting the Bears to within three points, but they could get no closer. Cooper went 7 for 8 at the free-throw line in the quarter to clinch the Bombers’ first state semifinal berth.
Lydon’s brother, Tyler, a Division I prospect, was held to four points but had 10 rebounds and six assists. Drew Evans hit a couple of key baskets for the Bombers off the bench in the second half and finished with five points.
“It feels great to be part of the winning team,” Evans said. “We like to come out hard in the second half and get at ’em. I’m ecstatic to be in the final four. I hope we get the ‘W’ out there too.”