GLENS FALLS Andre Curbelo is listed at 6-foot-1. He’s Long Island Lutheran’s smallest starter. But he plays so much bigger.
On Friday night, the Crusaders’ junior point guard racked up 31 points — including a 15-for-16 effort from the foul line — to lead LuHi to a 77-53 Class AA boys semifinal victory over South Shore.
The win put the Crusaders (24-2) into the Class AA final of the Federation Tournament of Champions against Christ the King, set for Saturday at 8:30 p.m. at Cool Insuring Arena.
“Our whole goal has been to go 25-2, come in here, play hard and give it our all,” Curbelo said. “It feels great, but we have one more win to go.”
“This team has a powerful will to win — they don’t care who scores or who gets the stats, they just want to win together,” said LuHi head coach John Buck, whose team lost in the semifinals last year.
In a game filled with fouls and bodies banging, the Crusaders shot 51 percent from the floor and made 27 of 32 free throws on their way to the win over South Shore (27-5), last year’s Federation runner-up.
Curbelo was exceptional at both ends of the floor, finishing with seven rebounds, five assists and four steals, and even had a dunk.
“I’m small, but I like getting on the boards,” Curbelo said. “Everything is just hard work and practice, practice, practice.”
“Every day that I coach him, I say, ‘I appreciate it,” Buck said. “He’s special, he’s tremendous, not only as a basketball player, but as a young man.”
Though the Crusaders led most of the way, LuHi really seized control in the third quarter, finishing the period on a 12-4 run. Back-to-back dunks by Curbelo and Zed Key sparked the closing burst, which was capped by a 3-pointer by Tyler Stephenson-Moore for a 53-33 lead.
The fourth quarter degenerated into a foul-shooting contest, as both teams were in the double bonus quickly.
“It was a very physical, aggressive game between two teams that want to win very badly,” Buck said. “Credit to South Shore, they’re a huge, physical team — winning two City titles is not easy. When the game got chippy, I was proud of our guys for staying out of it.”
South Shore — which got 20 points from Kadary Richmond and 11 from Dwight Davis Jr. — had a rough shooting night, making just 29 percent from the floor and the Vikings were outrebounded 40-26. They also went 22 for 42 from the foul line, and three of their starters fouled out.
“Missing 20 foul shots — you can’t win doing that,” South Shore head coach Shawn Mark said. “We battled down the stretch, but we paid the price.”
Neither team got much going offensively in the first half, as LuHi threw away the ball on several occasions and South Shore struggled with shooting. The Vikings made 7 of 25 shots from the floor in the first half, while LuHi went 8 for 18.