NEWBURGH – In some sports-related fantasies, we presume, the championship is won in a dramatic and cathartic moment. A buildup of immense stress and uneasiness, finally, is released and tension transforms in a nanosecond to jubilation as the hero delivers.
Ehh… Not this time.
“But there is a lot of joy in winning like this,” Millbrook boys basketball coach Bill Kyle said on Friday. “It eases a lot of the tension you would normally have late in the game, and you get a chance to enjoy the performance.”
And what a performance it was.
Humberto Cabrera scored 31 points to lead top-seeded Millbrook in a 77-42 rout of Tri-Valley in the Section 9 Class C final at Mount St. Mary College.
The upstart Blazers captured their first title since 2009 and advance to face the Section 1 champion — North Salem was scheduled to face Hamilton Saturday — in a regional semifinal on Tuesday, 7 p.m. at SUNY New Paltz.
“This is what all the hard work and practice is for,” said Cabrera, a 6-foot-1 guard who scored 13 points in the first quarter. “You do all that for moments like this, when it’s just pure excitement.”
There wasn’t a particular moment in this game, though. But for the Millbrook supporters — and the coach’s blood pressure — that was just fine. The excitement persisted throughout.
Gavin Burns scored 13 points for the Blazers (16-6). Shane Sinon, Jake Daly and Zeke Kopilak each added six points and were among nine Millbrook players who scored.
Brennan Healy had 22 points for third-seeded Tri-Valley.
This contest was close for 14 seconds. That’s the time that elapsed before the Blazers scored their first basket. In a blink, Millbrook had a 9-0 lead, and it was 13-2 under three minutes in. More than a hot start, it was foreshadowing. Millbrook maintained its high-energy frenetic pace, and Cabrera proved unstoppable off the dribble. Tri-Valley simply had no mach for any of it.
The Blazers were up 62-29 at the end of the third quarter and by then, in the stands behind their bench at least, the celebration was already on.
“It’s fun to win games like this, because you know everyone played well and we executed,” Drew Jackson said. “Everybody gets a chance to get in and be a part of the championship.”
That included big man Nick Larocque, who elicited the loudest ovation and had his name chanted when he was substituted in with four minutes left. The junior is a center for the Millbrook football team — a position that seldom draws attention, let alone acclaim — and he has received sparse playing time in basketball this season.
“I’ve never heard anything like that before,” Larocque said of the chants. “This is the first time a crowd has reacted like that to me.”
Teammates said that he is beloved. That, and he was the last reserve to enter the game for Millbrook as Kyle made sure to empty his bench in the second half. Football players Delvin Wood and Jacob Wright led the cheers for their friend and said this victory — and in that fashion — offered them solace for the fall. The Blazers reached the section final in football, but lost a lead in the fourth quarter and fell to John S. Burke Catholic. Larocque agreed with that assessment.
“My freshman and sophomore years we weren’t competitive in basketball,” said Cabrera, a junior. “So that makes this feel even more special. We’ve got guys playing basketball year-round and it’s showed.”
From start to finish.
Stephen Haynes: email@example.com, 845-437-4826, Twitter: @StephenHaynes4