ALBANY – None of Salesian’s players are likely to participate in the “March Madness” that is the NCAA Tournament Division I men’s basketball tournament, which is currently taking place in various parts of the country, but Eagles head coach John Miressi liked the team’s postseason journey to the tournament.
What started in the Catholic High School Athletic Association league, and culminated Saturday with a 64-35 loss to Collegiate in the Class B Federation Tournament of Champions semifinals, there is nothing about his team’s performance that could be defined as a failure.
“We’re not even supposed to be here,” Miressi said, noting the team’s 3-seed in the CHSAA tournament. “We weren’t even supposed to win our league.”
“We didn’t expect to be here.”
The New Rochelle-based school has done its fair share of traveling this month, from a trip to Buffalo last week, to the Federation tournament at the Times Union Center this weekend, which Miressi attributed to the team’s fatigue. He didn’t however, tip-toe around the talent of Collegiate.
“I think we came out a little flat, and quite frankly, I think the other team is better than us,” Miressi said. “We really weren’t sure how Collegiate played. We had no tape — we came in blind, really.”
For four of the team’s senior starters, the Salesian (15-13) loss also meant the end of their high school careers.
“It’s very emotional, but I think my team has to remember that we’re still state champions and this game, it’s gonna hurt, but we have to move past it,” said Xavier Tellez, who was named to the all-tournament team from the Eagles. “It’s been unforgettable months.”
Tellez will stay local for college next year, when he suits up as part of the first-ever men’s basketball program at the College of New Rochelle.
Collegiate (25-5) owned a significant height advantage over the Eagles, with four starters checking in listed at 6-foot-4 or taller. Miressi said the length and physicality of the Dutchmen was a difference maker in the game.
“We competed pretty well in the first half, but they were pretty physical inside and it was tough for us to get our shots off,” said Miressi, whose team trailed by six at the half.
Collegiate, coached by Pleasantville resident Ray Voelkel, will play in the Federation final Sunday at 4 p.m.
“We’re long, and we played really good shutdown defense in the second half (Saturday). We had some issues in the first half, we ironed them out at halftime and did a really good job,” Voelkel said. “I think if we play good defense again, we have a good shot at winning because we can score some points.”