Pine Plains will play for the NYSPHSAA Class C boys basketball championship tonight, after using grit to pass a physical test on Friday.
The Bombers of Stissing Mountain Jr./Sr. High School came from behind to topple previously undefeated Silver Creek of Section 6, 52-49, at Glens Falls Civic Center in a state semifinal. The win was the 19th straight for Pine Plains.
Pine Plains will face Lake George in today’s 7 p.m. final. This is the Bombers’ first trip to a state-title game. The last team from Dutchess County to win a state boys basketball title was Millbrook in Class D in 1999.
“This was our goal at the beginning of the year, to get to this game,” Pine Plains coach Brendan LoBrutto said. “And not just get to this game, but win it. We’re not done.”
Silver Creek led Pine Plains by as many seven points in the fourth quarter, but Pine Plains scored 11 of the last 12 points to secure the win. Justin Cooper had nine of his team-high 18 points in the fourth quarter to help clinch the victory. Cooper was 7 for 8 from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter.
“We knew we needed to focus,” said Cooper, who added 13 rebounds, three assists and two steals. “There were eight minutes left at the start of the fourth quarter. We knew we had to play. None of us wanted to go home losing. It feels wonderful to come out on top.”
Trailing 49-48, Tyler Lydon (10 points, 16 rebounds) stole the ball and dished it to Cooper, who was fouled by Silver Creek’s Tyler Bain. Cooper made both freebies to give the Bombers the lead. Silver Creek committed a turnover under the basket with seven seconds left and then immediately fouled Pine Plains’ Adam Miller (10 points, nine rebounds). Miler hit both free throws to clinch the win.
“It was very satisfying,” Miller said of struggling in the post but hitting two free throws late. “It felt amazing. It means everything. I just wanted to do my part on the team.”
Silver Creek scored only eight points in the fourth quarter. Steve Marcey led Silver Creek with 18 points.
“We knew it was going to be a battle. It’s what we prepared for,” said Silver Creek coach Robert Genco, whose team finished the season 23-1. “We had a drought where we couldn’t get a bucket to put it away. We needed one.”
Pine Plains led 29-22 at halftime, but Silver Creek scored nine of the first 11 points in the third quarter, all coming on Kaine Kettel 3-pointers, to tie the score, before surging ahead to a 40-33 edge.
“I felt like my heart just sank into my stomach,” said Zach Lydon, who had 10 points and eight rebounds. “We knew we had to just buckle up and keep playing ‘D.’ “
“When it comes down to it, they refused to lose,” LoBrutto said. “That’s been the theme since the beginning of sectionals.”
The Bombers held a large size advantage with four starters 6-foot-4 or taller, but Silver Creek won its share of battles in the low post and the Bombers struggled to draw fouls for most of the game.
Cooper credited his team being ready for the state semifinal to its pair of battles with Section 9 Class B champion Marlboro. The Bombers lost to the Iron Dukes in overtime on opening night and defeated them for the Mid-Hudson Athletic League title.
“They were very similar to Marlboro with the way the physicality is,” Cooper said. “They’re very athletic and they’re very strong. We played, we battled around with them, we hit around and we hit our free throws.”