Enduring a physical struggle with consistent battles both on the offensive and defensive boards and scraps for loose balls on the hardwood, Pine Plains won its first Mid-Hudson Athletic League boys basketball title, outlasting defending champion Marlboro High School, 49-47, on Thursday at SUNY Ulster.
The title for the Bombers (16-2 overall) was their first league title since winning a share of the defunct Bi-Valley League title in 1994. Pine Plains entered the MHAL in 1998.
The Bombers went 10 for 13 from the free-throw line in a fourth quarter in which they scored 16 points to clinch the victory. Marlboro led the game, 35-33, entering the fourth quarter.
“We just had to fight,” Pine Plains 6-foot-6 senior forward Adam Miller said. “It’s a fighting game and that’s what we had to do.”
Pine Plains won its 14th straight game and was led by 6-foot-8 swingman Tyler Lydon, who had a game-high 17 points, while brother Zach Lydon and point guard Justin Cooper chipped in 13 points apiece.
Marlboro, which had a four-game winning streak snapped, was led by point guard Ryan Cary, who had 12 points and four steals. Matt Tamburri added nine points, six rebounds and five steals.
The fourth quarter alone saw three ties and three lead changes. After Marlboro’s Austin Beck and Pine Plains’ Cooper exchanged baskets to start the period, Tamburri fouled Tyler Lydon, who hit both free throws to tie the game at 37. A Zach Sakadelis jumper 1:59 into the period gave the Iron Dukes the lead back, but a rebound and basket by Miller tied the game at 39. Marlboro’s Alex Smith and Cooper each went 1 for 2 from the line to make the game 40-40.
With 2:29 left, Tyler Lydon found a hole and his brother Zach for a layup and a 42-40 lead for the Bombers. With two minutes left in the game, Cooper fouled out and was replaced at the point by the 6-foot-8 Tyler Lydon. Smith hit both free throws to tie the game at 42-42. Beck tied the game at 44-44 after Zach Lydon hit a pair of free throws. Zach Lydon hit another pair on Cary’s fifth foul. After Tamburri fouled Tyler Lydon, the Bomber hit both free throws to make it 48-44. Marlboro’s Tyler Terpening hit a 3-pointer with 14.6 seconds left, but then Tyler Lydon made 1 of 2 at the line to give Pine Plains a 49-47 lead. Marlboro’s Tyler Banks attempted to tie the score at the buzzer, but could not convert.
Cooper said Marlboro deserves credit for toughness and was also proud of his team.
“They always say they’re football guys,” Cooper said. “They’re tough kids, but we came out with a lot of toughness also. It feels great to win the first ever one for our school.”
Cooper said he could barely sit on the bench after he fouled out.
“It was crazy,” the point guard said. “I knew I had to help out the guys. I had to bring intensity off the bench. All the guys on the bench — we were loud, we were proud. We work hard in practice every day and it feels great to win this.”
“It was a fun game to be a part of,” Marlboro coach Mike Koehler said. “The kids know it stinks, but down the road, they will remember being part of this game. A free throw here or there in a game like this is the difference. Everything matters. With the playoffs coming up, we want to emphasize that every possession matters.”
Pine Plains jumped out to an early lead of 7-1, but Marlboro battled back twice in the first quarter to tie the game — first on a free throw by Smith and then on a trey from Sakadelis. A Zach Lydon basket with 28 seconds left in the period gave Pine Plains a 12-11 lead.
The Bombers led by as many as eight in the second quarter, but again Marlboro battled back and took a 22-20 lead on back-to-back baskets by Smith. A Cooper 3-pointer with 42 seconds left sent the Bombers into the locker room with a 23-22 halftime lead.
Marlboro outscored Pine Plains, 13-10, in the third quarter and took a 35-33 lead into the final period. The Iron Dukes scored eight of the first 10 points of the period, but then Tyler Lydon scored five straight points — one on a goaltending call against Marlboro and another on an uncontested 3-pointer. Tamburri, himself scored the last five points of the quarter.
Pine Plains had important players in significant foul trouble in the second half. Cooper had four fouls halfway through the fourth quarter and then fouled out. Miller, the team’s center, had three fouls entering the second half. Starting shooting guard Alejandro Ayala missed the game with a wrist injury. Pine Plains coach Brendan LoBrutto had to utilize players like Dakota Piazzi (who started), Drew Evans and Mike Barton for important minutes in a tight game.
“I love how we mentally handled the game,” LoBrutto said. “We stayed poised throughout and especially when Cooper fouled out. The guys battle each other every day in our practice scrimmages and it really paid off tonight.”
Tyler Lydon said he’s seen significant improvement in Pine Plains’ reserves this season.
“They definitely stepped up,” Tyler Lydon said. “They’ve improved so much and they’ve done such a great job. I can count on them no matter what.”
Zach Lydon said the win over Marlboro prepares his Bombers for what’s ahead in the Section 9 tournament where they will seek their third straight crown and what’s potentially beyond that.
“I think it shows what we can do in sectionals,” Zach Lydon said, “And hopefully, we can make that run to states.”
Phil Strum: email@example.com, 845-437-4847, Twitter: @PJStrum