Poughkeepsie High School ran into a boys basketball team that had a better night than it did on Wednesday.
Section 9 champion John S. Burke Catholic topped Section 1 champion Poughkeepsie, 67-58, in a state Class A regional semifinal in front of a turnaway crowd of 1,400 at Mount Saint Mary College’s Kaplan Center. Both teams ran the floor well, both teams crashed the boards. Burke, Poughkeepsie senior center Brandon Weir thought, was a bit better.
“We played all right,” said Weir, “but you just can’t beat a team that played perfect.”
Burke 6-foot-6 center Stan Buczek led the charge for the Eagles with 23 points and 12 rebounds. Burke led by as many as 17 points before Poughkeepsie ate away at the lead late.
“He was very elusive,” Weir said of Buczek. “He was agile. Unlike all the big men in our section, he had better movement. Overall, he’s a good player.”
Burke, which was moved up from Class B to Class A after losing in the state final last year, will face Section 4 champion Maine-Endwell at 4 p.m. on Sunday at Binghamton High School.
The Pioneers, though, refused to be dejected after the game.
“We’re champions, still. I can be one of the ones who says I’ve got a gold ball,” said Poughkeepsie senior guard Jermar Dancy, who led the Pioneers with 21 points, including eight inside of a comeback attempt in the fourth quarter.
Dancy, who also had seven rebounds, wore his Section 1 champion Poughkeepsie shirt proudly. “I’m going to wear this for the rest of the week,” he added.
Poughkeepsie and Burke traded baskets early on in a first quarter, which featured seven lead changes and four ties. Burke, behind a Jesse Longmire layup and then a pair of baskets by Buczek, took a 19-13 lead into the second quarter.
A 3-pointer by Michael Coffey and a putback by Buczek were the first two baskets of the second quarter to pad Burke’s lead to 24-13. Poughkeepsie turned a nine-point deficit into a five-point deficit just before halftime on a Dancy 3 and a D’Andre Smith basket sandwiched around a bucket by Jack Dwyer (17 points).
“I feel like they came out in the first half with more energy than we did and by them doing that, we had to catch up,” said Poughkeepsie senior guard Jahleel Carter, who had 14 points, including 11 in the first half. “Burke is a team that you shouldn’t get behind on because they’ll make you pay. Once they got a little leeway, they got a little head of steam.”
Burke came out flying to start the second half, scoring 11 of the first 13 points of the period to balloon its lead to as many as 17 points. In the fourth quarter, a pair of Dancy 3s in the last two minutes brought Burke’s lead all the way down to four points at 62-58. With the Eagles up five with 33.1 seconds left, Poughkeepsie coach Brian Laffin argued a non-call on what he thought was a Burke foul on Devin Lawrence, and was assessed a technical foul. Buczek scored the last four points of the game on the subsequent free throws and a layup.
“The up and down style fit both our teams,” Buczek said. “At the end, (Poughkeepsie was) a little bit sloppy with it, so we were able to deal with it well.”
Burke’s balance — be it shooting from the perimeter, playing strong defense limiting Poughkeepsie to a single shot on possessions, as well as sporting a strong interior game — was tantamount to its success.
“We talked about taking care of them on the glass because (Poughkeepsie’s) so high energy,” Burke coach Doug Janeczko said. “I love to watch them play. We did a good job on the glass. I think we were at least even. Our goals were to be composed and take care of the ball. Against a team that plays with that intensity, you can’t expect to take care of the ball 100 percent of the time. We did it enough that the plays we made, made the difference for us.”
Poughkeepsie’s season ended at 18-3 overall, short of the team’s ultimate goal of the first Pioneers state title since 1995, but the players and coaches were positive about the players who won the Section 1 Class A title.
“We did something that the city’s been waiting for and we brought it to them,” Carter said. “With this game, we tried to take it to the next level. Burke outplayed us. I feel like we tried to accomplish another goal and I feel like we gave it our all. That’s all you can do.”
Laffin was encouraged by the efforts of his team in the 2012-13 campaign.
“You’ve got a great group of young men and I was so proud to have the opportunity to coach them,” Laffin said. “Obviously, this is an unfortunate situation and somebody has to lose. I thought with what we did this year, we accomplished a lot.”
Poughkeepsie was a veteran team this season, and thus, graduates 10 seniors. Included in that list are all five starters — Dancy, Carter, Weir, Lawrence and Ray Knight, as well as reserves D’Andre Smith, Josh Taylor, Tyrece Whitaker, Angelo Alvarado and Maleek Richardson.
“It’s a loss, but a good loss,” Laffin said. “These are good young men who are going to move on to bigger and better things. You hope that their best years are ahead of them. They enjoyed their time in high school, but the bottom line is, you want them to have a better future. We’ll look at this with fond memories, but hopefully, down the road, they’ll accomplish more than high school basketball.”