As the Pine Plains boys basketball team departed the court at jam-packed Glens Falls Civic Center, many of the Bombers had their heads down, most with tears streaming down their faces. Fans and family members let Pine Plains know they had nothing to be ashamed of.
Pine Plains’ season ended in the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class C final on Saturday, losing to Section 2’s Lake George, 55-45.
Warriors sophomore Joel Wincowski was named the tournament’s most valuable player. He hit shots from virtually everywhere on the floor — 5 feet away, 25 feet away, hand in his face — to the tune of a game-high 33 points, including 14 in the fourth quarter.
“He’s a great ballplayer,” said Pine Plains senior Justin Cooper, who led the Bombers with 18 points, but was held scoreless in the second half. “Every time down the court, we had a hand in his face. He was fading away. He was getting contact. He was hitting shots. You’ve got to give him credit. He’s a heck of a ballplayer. He has a bright future ahead of him.”
LoBrutto knew immediately who Wincowski reminded him of. Wincowski was 11 for 26 shooting from the game with seven 3-pointers.
“No. 4 there was reincarnated as Larry Bird,” LoBrutto said. “The kid couldn’t miss.”
Pine Plains (21-3) never could gets its offense in sync, specifically in the second half. With the game tied at 40, Cooper missed a pair of free-throws with about 4 minutes left. Wincowski hit a 3, his brother, Ethan scored, and then Wincowski hit another shot to give the Warriors a 47-40 lead. Lake George never trailed again and outscored Pine Plains, 20-11, in the fourth quarter.
“It’s a heartbreaking loss, but it would be more heartbreaking if we lost for a lack of effort,” LoBrutto said. “That wasn’t the case.”
If the second half was the Joel Wincowski Show, then the first half was a wonderful duet between Wincowski and Cooper. Pine Plains’ senior point guard and the Dutchess County Basketball Coaches Association Player of the Year was extremely active on offense, driving to the basket and drawing fouls. At halftime, Pine Plains and Lake George were tied at 22 with Cooper scoring 18 and Wincowski scoring 17.
Wincowski said that Pine Plains starting the game in a zone defense gave him confidence from the opening sequence.
“We’ve never faced a team of that size.” Wincowski said. “The surprising part was that they came out in a zone. We haven’t faced a zone all year. It was a little bit of a confidence booster for me because teams don’t play a zone on us normally because we have a couple of guys who can shoot the 3.”
Wincowski said it was important for his team to compete for rebounds (Pine Plains outrebounded Lake George, 33-28).
“They’re so big and they worked well as a team,” Wincowski said. “We just came out and outhustled them. They are a huge team. Just gigantic. We had to focus on rebounding and that’s what we did. That’s how you beat a team like this.”
Lake George coach Dave Jones, whose squad won the first boys basketball state title in Lake George history, said he was satisfied that no matter what the shot looked like, Wincowski was able to make it.
“We were able to create some seams in their zone that created some open shots for him,” Jones said. “I think that was a big factor. We were more efficient offensively.”
Zach Lydon, who had 12 points and seven rebounds, said the Bombers knew that Lake George had many more weapons than just Joel Wincowksi. Ethan Wincowski and Greg Rosenthal each had a three-pointer also as the Warriors shot 35 percent (9 for 26) from long distance,
“Our gameplan wasn’t just to stop him,” Lydon said. “We knew he was their best player. There’s nothing you can do when a kid is hitting shots from five feet away.”
Lydon expressed frustration in the defensive pressure that Lake George gave to he and his teammates.
“It was almost impossible to get a lot of shots,” said Lydon of the Bombers who shot 41 percent (16 for 39) from the field. “Kids in your face is not the easiest thing to do. We’re not used to that type of pressure, They brought it and we couldn’t handle it today.”
Lake George’s defense especially affected 6-foot-8 Tyler Lydon and 6-foot-6 Adam Miller. Tyler Lydon was held to 11 points and 11 rebounds, while Miller was held scoreless with only one rebound.
“I believe we won the game with heart,” Joel Wincowski said. “We came out incredibly outsized and we focused on our hustle and our defense. On the offensive end, we made looks to the wide-open man. That helped us incredibly.”
Among the almost 5,000 fans in attendance was a huge contingent from Pine Plains, Dutchess County and Section 9. Zach Lydon said that fact wasn’t lost on the Bombers.
“To have (the season) end in the state championship and to have the whole community behind you, there’s not much more you can ask for,” Zach Lydon said.
LoBrutto said the Bombers, who won a division title, a Mid-Hudson Athletic League title and a Section 9 Class C title, have a lot to be proud of.
“Once the emotions wear off a little bit, hopefully these guys will really appreciate what they did and how much they really brought the community together.”
Cooper and Zach Lydon were named to the all-tournament team, along with Silver Creek’s Steve Marcey and Moravia’s Dylan Powers.
Off its current roster, Pine Plains will graduate senior starters Cooper and Zach Lydon, as well as reserves Drew Evans, Alejandro Ayala, Rob Galm, Nolan Harpp and Mike Senerchia. Starters Tyler Lydon, Adam Miller and Dakota Piazzi form the core that will return for the 2013-14 season.