PINE PLAINS — Big is the word most people use to describe the high school boys basketball team at Pine Plains. A big weekend for the Bombers could turn the 2012-13 season into a very big year.
The Bombers of Stissing Mountain Jr./Sr. High School are 20-2 overall, already having won the Mid-Hudson Athletic League title and the Section 9 Class C title. Pine Plains has a 1:30 p.m. tip-off today in the state Class C semifinal against undefeated Section 6 champion Silver Creek (23-0) at Glens Falls Civic Center.
This is Pine Plains’ first trip to the state final four. The winner of the Pine Plains-Silver Creek game will face the winner of Friday’s 5 p.m game between Section 4 champion Moravia (19-2) and Section 2 champion Lake George (22-2) for the state championship on Saturday at 7 p.m. Pine Plains is looking to become the first team from Dutchess County to win a state title since Millbrook won a Class D crown in 1999.
The Bombers are known for their size, with three players 6-foot-6 or taller on the squad and all five starters at 6-2 or taller. Justin Cooper, 6-4 senior point guard, said the Bombers are more than just a bunch of big guys.
“Most other teams see us and see that we’re really tall and don’t think we can get up and go and really handle the ball and really shoot the ball,” said Cooper, named by the Dutchess County Basketball Coaches Association as Player of the Year. “Teams started to realize the further and further we got in the tournament that we can shoot the ball, dribble the ball and also play with our bigs. I think we match up pretty well. We have to stop the fast break, stay out of foul trouble and, hopefully, we can get the win.”
Cooper joins 6-2 junior Dakota Piazzi in a backcourt that is pretty big, but pales in comparison when you take a look at the Bombers’ frontcourt of 6-6 junior Adam Miller, 6-8 junior Tyler Lydon and 6-9 senior Zach Lydon. Cooper, the Lydon brothers and Miller have combined for 33 double-doubles and one triple-double (by Cooper) this season.
“We have a lot of height and that helps us play,” Cooper said. “We like to feed the ball inside first and then we take it outside. Both Lydon brothers can shoot and they’re both pretty tall.”
Cooper averages 20.1 points, 6.7 rebounds, 6.4 assists and 3.4 steals per game, running the Bombers’ offense. Tyler Lydon, who has already received numerous Division I offers, averages 15.8 points, 11.1 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 3.1 blocks per game. Zach Lydon puts up 15.4 points and 7.8 rebounds per game, while Miller chips in with 8.5 points and 6.8 rebounds per game.
Just when you thought Pine Plains couldn’t get any bigger, it did. Six-foot-five Alejandro Ayala, who missed the last eight games with a broken bone in his hand, is cleared to play and will come off the bench. Before getting hurt, Ayala averaged 3.1 points and 3.9 rebounds per game.
Silver Creek (23-0) averages 71 points per game and has an offense that features 6-7 center Billy Brooks and 6-4 swingman Zed Williams, who is also a lacrosse player who has committed to Division I Virginia. The rest of the Black Knights’ lineup features a trio of shooters: guards Kaine Kettle, Steve Marcey and Brennan White.
“I’m just as comfortable going uptempo as I am slowing up,” Pine Plains coach Brendan LoBrutto said. “With our size, slowing the ball up and pounding it down low would work. With the way we can run the floor, that will work as well. We can play any style that we want and that we are comfortable with.”
Zach Lydon said unblemished records don’t matter to the Bombers.
“I don’t think undefeated really means anything to us,” Zach Lydon said. “We need to play the way we’ve been playing. We came out a little slow (against Stony Brook School) last game. We’ve just got go come out and play hard defense like we’ve been doing and get some shots up.”
Zach Lydon said this week in school has been fun with so many well-wishers, but admitted he’s excited to just get up to Glens Falls and play some basketball.
“It’s been tough because I just can’t wait to get up there and go,” Zach Lydon said. “The aura around the school is that everybody is so proud. It’s more than just the school. It’s the community. The community is just so proud of us and it feels like it’s brought everybody together as one.”
“It’s special,” LoBrutto said. “It’s been special for the last three years. These seniors were the first group I taught as a social studies teacher. They account for 99 percent of my gray hair, but they’re a really good group.”
Phil Strum: firstname.lastname@example.org, 845-437-4847, Twitter: @PJStrum