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An epic victory

Joseph Girard celebrates after Glens Falls won the Class B state championship title Saturday, March 16. Girard tied the game late in regulation, then drove the baseline for the game-winner in the last seconds of overtime as the Indians narrowly defeated the Raiders with a final score of 75-74. 

In the 41-year history of the State Boys Basketball Tournament, Glens Falls’ name had not appeared in the winning side of any championship game. The same was true of Cambridge in the State Girls Basketball Tournament.

That all changed Saturday.

It took an overtime to do it, but Joseph Girard III hit the game-winning shot as time expired in the Class B boys basketball state championship in Binghamton to beat Lowville 75-74 in front of a sea of Glens Falls community members.

About an hour later, Cambridge won its first state championship in a sport other than football with a 57-43 victory over Watkins Glen at Hudson Valley Community College in the Class C final of the State Girls Basketball Tournament.

In Binghamton, playing for his late grandfather, Joe Girard Sr., JG3 netted his 22nd career 50-point game and pulled down nine rebounds to deliver his hometown its first state boys basketball championship.

“A lot of things are coming true and I cannot really put this into words right now,” Girard III said. “To be a state champion in two different sports in the same season, to bring the school its first (basketball) championship in history, that is just unexplainable. I thank the community.”

With the win, Glens Falls qualified for the Federation Tournament this weekend at Cool Insuring Arena.

Down three points at halftime, Girard III scored 18 straight third-quarter points before hitting a game-tying 3-pointer with seconds left in regulation.

A circus start to overtime ended with Girard III, ball in hand, with three seconds to play and down one point. He drove baseline, elevated and nailed the game-winner with Syracuse coaches Jim Boeheim and Gerry McNamara sitting courtside.

“For the 1999 team, the 2003 team and the 2007 team, they all own a part of this,” athletic director Chip Corlew said. “Because they built the blocks for what happened tonight. To the past coaches and everyone who had a part in this, this is theirs too.”

In Troy, Cambridge — which started four sophomores and a freshman — shut down the Senecas in the fourth quarter, outscoring them 16-4 as they finished the season with a 25-1 record.

Tournament MVP Sophie Phillips scored a game-high 24 points to lead Cambridge, whose cheering fans filled an entire side of the Hudson Valley Community College Fieldhouse, making it feel like a home game for the Indians.

“It feels awesome — our whole community has come out and supported us the whole way, it’s amazing that we had that kind of support coming to all of our games,” said Phillips, a sophomore point guard, who also had 17 rebounds, three blocks and three steals.

“We were pretty confident,” said sophomore center Fiona Mooney. “We weren’t acting like it was guaranteed, we knew we still had to work for it, but this was definitely our goal all season.”

Both teams had history in states without winning a state title.

Glens Falls reached the state championship in 2003 and in 2007. Both times the Indians fell just short. All postseason, Girard III and his teammates talked of avenging Jimmer Fredette and the players before them with a state championship.

Behind Girard III’s storybook heroics, 11 points from cousin Trent Girard and 10 points from Brendan Quirk, the Indians made history.

Girard, who also quarterbacked the Indians’ football team in the fall, winning a state championship, was named New York’s Gatorade Player of the Year on Friday and received his Mr. Basketball plaque as well over the weekend.

With more than 4,600 career points to his name and nearly every accolade a high school athlete could dream of, Girard III finally got the one piece of hardware he craved so dearly.

But this is bigger than JG3, and he knows it. Glens Falls snapped a 41-year boys basketball championship drought, avenged the legends before them and captured what so many outsiders hoped they would not.

A 27-win season, capped with a state championship came with a price. Rob Girard mentioned after the game how the Indians endured so much throughout the season.

But Rob, JG3 and all of Glens Falls can finally breathe a sigh of relief.

It happened.

And Joseph Girard III once again delivered when everything was on the line.

“There is so much pressure on Joseph,” Rob Girard said. “There is so much pressure on our other 10 kids. It felt like if we did not win the state title, people would have said we underachieved, which is not fair. But this is the culmination of the entire season right here. This is it.”

“For Joseph”, Corlew said, “it cements the unbelievable legacy of a hometown boy realizing his dream and taking the biggest shot of his life.”

The win was just as sweet for Cambridge.

“The credit goes to the kids,” first-year head coach Bob Phillips said. “They come in and work every day, they push each other — they have fun doing it, but they compete. And they don’t like to lose, that bothers them.”

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