GLENS FALLS — The history between Albany Academy and Park School still feels very fresh.
Every Cadet carries the pain of last year’s Federation Tournament of Champions final when the Pioneers beat top-ranked Albany Academy on a last-second shot.
Rather than turn the page, Cadet coach Brian Fruscio encourages his players to embrace the bad memories and turn their past despair into renewed fight.
The last time Cadet guard August Mahoney played at Cool Insuring Arena, he walked off the floor emotional and visibly shaken. Saturday in Glens Falls, he led Albany Academy back to the boys Class A championship game, scoring a game-high 23 points in a 71-56 victory over Park School.
Albany Academy plays Frederick Douglass Sunday at 1:45 p.m. for the title. This is the Cadets’ fourth straight championship appearance, with title wins in 2017 and 2016.
“It is nice to open up against a team that beat us last year,” Mahoney said. “We know our end-of-the-year goal is to win a state championship. So we kept last year in the back of our mind and used it as motivation.”
“For our guys’ mindset, we needed to make sure we went through Park and exorcised some of those demons,” Cadets coach Brian Fruscio said. “Any time we felt a low, all we had to do was mention how we felt last year and it snapped these guys back into place.”
Park School knows what it takes to beat the Cadets. A healthy dose of their big man Ebuka Nnagbo did the trick last year. On Saturday, Albany Academy again struggled to hold down the Nnagbo, as he scored 16 points on eight of 10 shooting.
Nnagbo could’ve dominated more, but first-half foul trouble limited his early minutes. He picked up his third foul at the four-minute mark and did not return until the third quarter.
“I’m up for calling this a rivalry,” Park coach Rich Jacob said. “They are a great team and currently they have the lead in this series.”
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Leading by 10 at half, the Cadets kept Park at distance throughout the second half. Both times when the Pioneers crept within nine points, once in the third and fourth quarter respectively, Albany Academy strung together a 4-0 run.
Though Mahoney recorded a double-double, pulling down 10 boards while adding 5 assists to his 23-point performance, junior Andre Jackson also stood out as he usually does with a few high-flying dunks.
Jackson finished with 18 points and 10 rebounds.
“It was a relief getting through these guys,” Jackson said. “I’m grateful we got the opportunity to play them again because we went out bad (against them) last year.”
Albany Academy versus Frederick Douglass Academy is a rematch from earlier this season when the two teams met in December.
Mahoney is not putting much stock into that game, however, though the Cadets won by nearly 30.
“Frederick Douglass is a whole different team,” Mahoney said. “They have two new starters now and two guys that really have come along. They are good. They are long so we’ll have to bring it. The game earlier means nothing to us.”
With a chance for Albany Academy to win its fourth title since 2013, and Mahoney is laser-focused on not falling short in the big game again.
“There is no other ideal situation other than winning tomorrow,” Mahoney said. “There is no second thought in our locker room. Coming into the year, we all knew the one goal we wanted to achieve.”