GLENS FALLS -- Four years ago, on the first day of tryouts for the McKinley basketball team, head coach Zaire Dorsey called three freshman into his office. He told Marcus Morris, DaeQuan Warren and Reyjzon Jordan that four years from then he expected them to be state champions.
It took overtime, but Dorsey was proven right on Sunday as McKinley of Buffalo defeated Burke Catholic of Goshen in the Class A final of the State Boys Basketball Tournament, 76-73.
“Four years ago coach told us we was going to be champions,” Jordan said. “We believed in it, no one else believed in it. We didn’t quit, we continued playing hard and it just feels good to be here.”
Morris added that the plan from the beginning of the year had been to make it into the history books with the school’s first state title.
Dorsey had been to the tournament once before — in 2007, when McKinley lost to Jimmer Fredette and Glens Falls in the semifinals — but none of his current players had ever made it. The emotions that came with the win were almost overwhelming.
“I’m almost at a loss for words,” Dorsey said. “Usually I can talk and talk and talk ...”
Lovell Smith, the Class A tournament MVP with 47 points in the two games, tapped his chest, motioning that his heart was beating rapidly.
“It’s hard to explain,” he said. “I’m really hyped up inside. It’s hard to explain.”
Smith led McKinley with 24 points and eight rebounds, the last of which put the ball in his hands on the winning play. Burke Catholic was trailing by three points with one second left in overtime when Michael Coffey, who scored 22 points Sunday and 43 for the tournament, stepped to the line. Coffey hit the first and then banked the second off the glass. If Burke Catholic got the rebound the Eagles could tip it back to tie it up. Smith grabbed the rebound and drew a foul.
With 7/10ths of a second left, those free throws didn’t make a difference in the final score, but it was almost fitting that the game ended that way. McKinley made one of six free throws in the first 31 minutes of the game. But when the championship was on the line, the Macks made those shots. Sammy Smith went to the line with 5.8 seconds left in regulation and hit both to tie the game. Eight of McKinley’s 16 points in overtime came from the line and the Macks missed just two free throws.
“If I was their coaching staff, I would have put us on the line too,” Dorsey said. “But we’ve been practicing, we’ve been working on it.
“Just go to the line, make 10 and switch and then we upped it, make 15 and switch and then we upped it, make 20 and switch. Just to give the kids confidence that they could make the shot.”
Morris said he wasn’t worried when it turned into a game of free throws. He started to say they shoot too many in practice, but corrected himself that a team can never shoot too much and went with that they shoot a lot.
The Macks led by nine points late in the third quarter, but Burke Catholic made its way back and took the lead in the final minute — forcing Sammy Morris to make those free throws to bring McKinley in to overtime.
“We had a good run and we even got the lead,” Burke Catholic coach Doug Janeczko said. “It’s tough now but that was a great high school basketball game, someone’s gotta lose. You have to give them all the credit in the world. They made almost all their free throws down the stretch and they made plays when they needed to.”
When it came down to it, McKinley did what it needed to — the Macks made free throws and grabbed rebounds and proved Dorsey right.
“We didn’t take a six-hour bus ride for nothing,” Jordan said.