GLENS FALLS – The lanes at both ends of the basketball court Sunday belonged to the Aquinas Little Irish, and as a result, the school also took a place in the history of high school sports in New York state.
Aquinas, led by junior guard Jalen Pickett inside Glens Falls Civic Center, rolled through the Class AA boys basketball state tournament final to a 68-50 win over Middletown from the Hudson Valley.
The private school in the city of Rochester now has New York State Public High School Athletic Association state championship trophies for football and basketball, the first to win those titles in the same school year. This is the first basketball state championship for Aquinas.
“I love it,” Pickett said. “A lot of people can’t say they made history in football or basketball.
“We went undefeated in football. We lost a couple of (basketball) games early in the season, but we still knew we had something special. We got down here and knew that we might not get here again, so we had to play our hearts out.”
Pickett, one of nine Aquinas basketball players on both teams, was named most valuable player of the Class AA state final four. The 6-foot-3 guard, who posed with his basketball-football teammates after the award ceremony, scored 10 of his game-high 28 points during the first quarter to launch the Section V champions with a 24-3 record.
“A lot of us couldn’t sleep last night, we were so eager to get to the game,” Pickett said. “So waking up this morning, knowing that it is a state championship game, I was pumped up to come out here and play. Everyone was.
“We knew that we could win this game.”
Aquinas senior forward Jamir Jones, who is headed to University of Notre Dame to play football on scholarship, helped the Little Irish control the paint at both ends against Middletown. Jones, who is 6-5 and 235 pounds, joined Pickett on the all-tournament team after he scored 14 points and grabbed 10 rebounds.
Pickett, who seemed to back Middletown defenders into the lane at will while handling the ball, also had 10 rebounds. Aquinas outrebounded the Middle Bears, the Section IX champions, 41-26.
“That was definitely a point of emphasis coming into the game: rebounding,” Jones said. “They had, I think, over 20 offensive rebounds last game.
“Everyone actually did a great job on the boards, and we just imposed our will there and tried to get out in transition, and stop their transition, as well.”
Middletown scored the game’s first basket, but the Little Irish never trailed after that. This matchup was unlike Saturday’s semifinal against undefeated 2015 state champion Shenendehowa, that went into overtime after a rally by Aquinas late in the fourth quarter.
“I never believed growing up that I’d even win a state championship,” Aquinas 6-5 junior Jason Hawkes said. “Two in one year, it’s unbelievable right now.”
Aquinas 68, Middletown 50
Middletown 13 11 16 10 – 50
Aquinas 18 16 14 20 – 68
MIDDLETOWN: Bright Afful 0, Jordan Bryan 15, Kyle Brown 15, Daniel Grant 10, Kenneth Middleton 4, Brandon Paul 0, Malachi Grant 2, Keyshawn Kennedy 0, Rashad Campbell 0, Jose Gonzalez 0, Tyreek Roberts 4, Evan Roberts 0.
AQUINAS: Earnest Edwards 8, Jason Hawkes 5, David Vito 5, Jamir Jones 14, Jalen Pickett 28, Brandon Anderson 2, Josh Constantine 0, Anthony Fleglar 0, Billy Gillan 2, Graycen Carter 4, Sincere Alston 0.
3-pointers: Bryan 3, Brown; Edwards, Vitro, Pickett 2.
Sportsmanship award: Earnest Edwards (Aquinas).
All-Tournament Team: Shane Gatling (Baldwin), Kevin Huerter (Shenendehowa), Kyle Brown (Middletown), Jamir Jones (Aquinas), Jordan Bryan (Middletown). Most Valuable Player: Jalen Pickett (Aquinas).