NEWBURGH – By Wednesday night, nearly three months had passed since Briarcliff last lost. The Bears had been perfect in their 22 games since falling to Marlboro back on Dec. 4, which, in basketball terms, may as well have been a season ago. Yet, when the teams met in the Class B state regional semifinals, Briarcliff found itself feeling the same postgame regrets.
In the rematch, the Bears struggled to score in the paint and allowed Marlboro too many open looks from 3-point range. That combination led to Briarcliff’s 57-49 loss at Mount Saint Mary College that snapped a 22-game winning streak.
“They just came out hot just the same way they did the first time,” senior Sean Crowley said. “They couldn’t miss a shot. They must’ve shot 70 percent to start. There’s not much you can do against that. Every time we made a run, they hit a big shot and stopped it.”
Marlboro (21-3), which advanced to meet Section 11’s Southampton back here on Saturday at 2, shot 10 for 23 from 3-point range despite missing its final five attempts. The Iron Dukes built a lead as large as 16 on the back of their shooting, including 17 points and five 3-pointers from senior Nick Mongelli.
Mongelli actually went scoreless when these teams met on Dec. 4, a 56-52 Marlboro victory. Crowley said the defense was geared more to stop seniors Tyler Jollie and Xavier Oliver, and that, comparatively, Mongelli was “the least of our concern.”
Briarcliff coach Cody Moffett said he and his staff had identified Mongelli as one of Marlboro’s shooters, but nothing could prepare his team for the real thing. Jollie and Oliver combined for just nine points, but Mongelli and senior Jack Rusk (13) found plenty of open space to score. And in Mongelli’s case, that space was well behind the arc.
“We told these guys on the film that they will shoot it from deep,” Moffett said. “I think sometimes kids will have to see that happen, that a kid will pull from deep. They have to prove it. We talked about taking an extra step on them, but they shot it really well.”
His Bears held an apparent advantage inside, but they misfired too often from in close to keep pace. They shot 11 for 34 in the paint as a team and were just 28 percent from the floor overall.
“We missed some easy ones,” Moffett said. “It’s a little frustrating because when we looked at the film the first time we thought we missed a lot of easy ones. It’s tough when you miss the easy ones to the same team twice in a row. It wasn’t necessarily anything they did. We just missed some shots we normally make. That can be the difference.”
The Bears fell behind by double digits in the third quarter, but they were able to trim it to seven points on a 3-pointer by sophomore Jack Ryan with 2:30 remaining. They missed 3s on the next three possessions and never came any closer.
The loss came four days after winning its first Section 1 title in nine years, but it also left Briarcliff four wins shy of the ultimate goal.
“I’m stubborn and it trickles down to my players. They’re stubborn. We have high goals. A state championship is our ultimate goal,” Moffett said. “The last two years, we’ve taken a step, and then a step. Now, God willing, I want to not only take a step but a big leap to Glens Falls and try to capture that state championship.”
Ryan scored a team-high 17 and had seven rebounds. Senior Josiah Cobbs finished with 13 points and 14 rebounds and Crowley added eight points and 11 rebounds.