MARLBORO – Xavier Oliver has been to Glens Falls before. But, only as a spectator.
On Friday, he and the rest of the Marlboro High School boys basketball team are spectators no longer. The Iron Dukes, champions of Section 9, will be taking center stage in a New York State Class B semifinal, against Section 3’s Bishop Grimes at the Glens Falls Civic Center.
“Every year my dad would say ‘You’re going to be up here one day,’ and when I got to my freshman and sophomore years it didn’t look too realistic,” said Oliver, a senior forward. “Now that we’re here, it’s a dream come true.”
Yet, the Iron Dukes, who had not previously made the state final four in program history and can become the first team from Ulster County to win a state boys basketball title, aren’t content with just an appearance in the state tournament.
They would like to win it all, of course.
Tyler Jollie, a senior guard, said the Iron Dukes are “happy, but not satisfied.”
“We feel like we have a real chance at winning this whole thing,” Jollie said. “We just want to come out and play to the best of our abilities.”
Iron Dukes coach Mike Koehler recognizes his team wants to win it all.
“Some of the kids have gone up to watch,” said Koehler, whose team enters the tournament 22-3. “Getting up there is a major accomplishment, and going to see the arena — and not ever playing in the arena — this is probably going to be pretty cool.
“But once the whistle blows, we have to be ready to play a game.”
Marlboro played capably against Southampton of Section 11 in the regional final, and came out with a 79-65 win to reach the state semifinals. Prior to the win over Southampton, the Iron Dukes beat Section 1’s Briarcliff in the regional semifinals, 57-49.
The win over Briarcliff followed an 82-76 triumph in triple overtime over Spackenkill in the section final.
Bishop Grimes (23-1) won the Section 3 title with a 72-60 win over Syracuse Academy of Science and took down Norwich, 69-60, in a regional final.
“They (Bishop Grimes) are about the same size of us. They’re quick, they move the ball well, they shoot the ball well. I think there’s a lot of similarities to us,” Koehler said. “It should be a good game, it should be a fun matchup.”
Koehler added the “ups and downs” his boys have faced this season have prepared his team for the semifinals.
“We’ve been in a lot of close games that have gotten us ready for this point,” Koehler said. “That’s why I’m excited to see what we can do up there.”
Marlboro also hasn’t changed its approach. Senior guard Nick Mongelli said the team’s regular routine hasn’t been altered.
“We’re doing the same thing we usually do in practice,” said Mongelli, who with teammate Jack Rusk scored 17 points to lead the Iron Dukes in their regional final win over Southampton. “We’re not really changing anything because it’s working for us, so we’re keeping the same thing.”
Koehler said he plans on getting to the venue early to watch the Olean (Section 6) vs. Hudson (Section 2) game at 6:15 p.m.. Should Marlboro win, it will face either Olean or Hudson in the state final at 9 p.m. on Saturday.
A.J. Martelli: email@example.com, 845-437-4836, Twitter: @AJM_PoJoSports
Marlboro vs. Bishop Grimes
What: New York State Class B semifinal
When: 8 p.m., Friday
Where: Glens Falls Civic Center
Live updates: Follow Journal sports reporter A.J. Martelli @AJM_PoJoSports on Twitter for live updates from the game.
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