WHITE PLAINS – Minutes before they stormed the floor for warmups Monday, Clark Academy’s players sat on the home bench in silence. They listened to their former JV assistant coach, Pat Quinn, the 32-year old from Yonkers stricken with ALS, and took a minute to view their upcoming championship game from a different perspective.
“They saw somebody who is struggling with things much worse than what they’re going through,” Clark coach Anthony Gaines said. “He’s still managing and overcoming. That’s motivation for them to overcome as well.”
For once, the Eagles faced little adversity. In a testament to the program’s progress, No. 1-seeded Clark captured its third straight gold ball without a hitch, routing No. 2 MLK 77-57 in the Class D championship at the County Center.
The Eagles (13-8), who swept MLK during the regular season, left no doubt again. They scored the game’s first eight points and never looked back. They led 41-24 at halftime on one of Andre Carthorn’s two buzzer-beating 3-pointers.
The senior guard poured in a game-high 30 points to earn tournament MVP honors. Sophomore Bryce Banks (18 points) and senior Antonio Lowden (13) joined Carthorn on the all-tournament team.
Senior Johari Evans had 21 points to pace MLK (6-15). He and sophomore Chuck Williams were named all-tournament, but Monday belonged to Carthorn, who arrived motivated to improve on last year’s performance.
“I felt like I was more comfortable coming into this game because I had played here the last couple years,” Carthorn said. “I knew I was going to get big minutes tonight. I just had to execute.”
By virtue of a rotating bye between Sections 1, 9 and 11, Clark won’t play again until Friday’s regional final. The Eagles will meet the winner of Tuesday’s regional between Eldred and Bridgehampton at 4:45 at Pace University — just one step from Glens Falls.
“I told them that we’ve come a long way,” said Gaines, who won his fifth title in 10 seasons. “The goal is not over. We still have more to do, but I was proud of them. I want them to enjoy this moment, but we’re right back at it on Friday.”
After a season of being hardened by games against Class A, B and C schools, Clark enters states with perhaps its best chance to advance deep into the tournament. The players weren’t satisfied just being Section 1’s best; they want more.
“This is our best shot,” Carthorn said. “We’re focused more now than ever. We just want to win the whole thing.”