SOUTH GLENS FALLS – Haldane had made a practice in recent years of taking 27 jumping jacks, one for every game it would needed to compete for a state championship. The Blue Devils finally reached No. 27 Saturday night when they played in the first state final in program history. Although the outcome wasn’t what they hoped, their unexpected run to the season’s final day won’t soon be forgotten in Cold Spring.
“We finally made it to that 27th game,” coach Joe Virgadamo said. “That’s what it’s all about.”
Haldane was forced to measure its success from that point of view after losgin 82-40 by Early Middle College of Buffalo in the Class C state championship game at the Glens Falls Civic Center. The Blue Devils scored the first five points, but those positive vibes disappeared quickly.
“They had a big size advantage on us. They were 6-foot-plus across the board. We were the undersized team,” senior David Rotando said. “I think we fought tooth-and-nail this whole game. The first quarter was kind of rough because we got into foul trouble, but they just came out strong.”
Haldane (17-10) was hampered by early foul trouble for senior Will Zuvic, who picked up two in the first quarter and then another early in the second. With the 6-foot-5 Zuvic on the bench, the Blue Devils, who had allowed 19 straight points in the first quarter, actually pulled within 23-17 on a three-point play by junior Blaine Fitzgerald. That momentum was short-lived. Middle Early College (20-7) powered in front by outscoring Haldane 35-10 from that point until the end of the third quarter.
“They shot it. They rebounded well. They ran. They had size. They had athletic guards,” Virgadamo said. “They’re good. We knew we had to play extremely well. We knew we had to keep every guy in the game for 32 minutes. We’re not deep. 5-0 was exciting, but it went downhill after that unfortunately.”
Middle Early College, a magnet school from Buffalo, held a 63-38 rebounding advantage thanks to a front line with three forwards 6-foot-5 or taller. The MVP was Gary F. Foster, a 6-6, 225-pound senior who had 23 points and 17 rebounds. Guards Joseph Staton (18 points) and Billy Rivera (17) combined to make 8 of 17 3-pointers, which caught the Blue Devils off-guard.
Fitzgerald led Haldane with nine points and nine rebounds and senior Tucker Beachak and Rotando each had seven points. Zuvic had five points and five rebounds, but the team had plummeted into a 41-19 halftime deficit before he returned to the floor to start the second half.
“We’re all really proud of each other,” Beachak said. “We’re a huge family and we lived in the moment. We obviously lost, but we had fun doing it. We played with heart, and that was all we could do. They were obviously the better team and there was nothing we could do.”
Actually, Virgadamo said his team would celebrate. He thought they deserved that after getting back to Glens Falls despite graduating five key seniors that accounted for 73 percent of his team’s offense.
“We’re going to enjoy it — because they deserve that. We’re going to have a parade — they deserve that,” Virgadamo said. “This is the only team that made it to the last day.”