Stepinac heads to Glens Falls for state’s top prize

178Stepinac won’t soon forget the last basketball game they played. But it’s beginning to feel like a lifetime ago.

“We all will remember March 11 for a long time,” Crusaders coach Pat Massaroni said on Thursday. “It’s a memory that will stick with all of us for a long time.”

That March 11 victory was a comeback win over Christ the King, earning Stepinac the CHSAA AA City Championship and a Catholic State crown, the program’s first title since 1960.

It also earned the Crusaders (25-5) a spot in this weekend’s New York State Federation Tournament of Champions at the Glens Falls Civic Center, beginning with Friday’s Class AA semifinal showdown with Long Island Lutheran, the NYSAIS champ.

“We took a few days off to regroup,” Massaroni said. “We focused on some skill work and did a lot of scrimmaging and game situations.”

As memorable as March 11 was for Stepinac, the program hopes these next two days write an even greater legacy for what’s already being regarded as the best team in school history.

The Crusaders must beat a Long Island Lutheran (22-2) squad they lost to 79-72 back on January 7 to reach Saturday’s Federation final. The winner will take on either NYSPHSAA champion Liverpool (25-0) or PSAL winner South Shore (20-8) back at the Glens Falls Civic Center on Saturday at 8 p.m.

Beating LuHi will be no easy task given the star power in its roster. The roster is loaded with major Division I recruits, led by Frankie Policelli, who torched Stepinac in the first meeting.

The 6-foot-8 senior connected on 8 of 11 from 3-point range and is one of the premier recruits in the state. In the past two weeks, he’s received scholarship offers from Maryland and Illinois.

Stepinac is focused on avenging that defeat and joining Christ the King and national power Monteverde (Florida) as the only teams to beat LuHi, which is ranked No. 1 in the state and Top 20 nationally.

“The kids and the staff enjoyed the City and State title last week — a week of celebration,” Massaroni said. “This week has been all focused on LuHi, a team we were tied with with three minutes to play. We feel that we didn’t play our best that day.”

“They are a different team. We are a different team. They are Top 20 in the country for a reason and it will be a great game.”

The Stepinac-Long Island Lutheran matchup is expected to draw considerable Division 1 college head and assistant coaches. The anticipated list includes Illinois, Maryland, California, UMass, George Washington, Iona, Dayton, Manhattan, Fordham, Niagara, Drexel, Robert Morris, Holy Cross, Colgate, Siena, Monmouth, Albany, Vermont and Quinnipiac.

Federation Tournament Scouting Report

Class AA Semifinal
Stepinac (25-5) vs. Long Island Lutheran (22-2)
When: Friday, March 23, 6 p.m.
Where: Glens Falls Civic Center
Players to Watch: Stepinac — Alan Griffin; R.J. Davis; A.J. Griffin; Xavier Walker; Joel Soriano. Long Island Lutheran — Tykei Greene, 6-3, Sr., G/F; Tyson Etienne, 6-1, Jr., PG; Donatas Kupsas, 6-8, Sr., F; Frankie Policelli, 6-8, Sr., F.
Scouting Report: Stepinac has been a team that’s locked in defensively in the postseason. But this, however, will be a considerably tougher challenge than anything the Crusaders have played so far. First and foremost, they must slow down Policelli, who had 28 points vs Stepinac (8 of 11 from 3-point range). Policelli has offers from Illinois, Maryland, Cincinnati, Temple and many others. Etienne’s offers include Cincinnati, UMass, Minnesota, Maryland and others; Greene has offers from Drexel, Tulane, Manhattan and others. Kupsas has offers from Hofstra, Weber State, Iona, Ole Miss and others.
KDJ’s Pick: Long Island Lutheran 69, Stepinac 67. Alan Griffin has taken his game to a completely different level in the postseason and sophomore R.J. Davis has made one big shot after another in the playoffs. But has the momentum the Crusaders played with in the CHSAA playoffs stalled with a two-week layoff? While LuHi hasn’t been on the court for a game in a month, this is a group assembled to win this title and it’s hard to imagine they won’t leave Glens Falls this weekend without it.

What’s next: The winner will face either South Shore or Liverpool of the Syracuse region in the Federation title game on Saturday night at 8 p.m. at the Glens Falls Civic Center.

All-Time Class AA Federation Champions

Year     Champion                    Conf                 MVP

2017    Lincoln                         PSAL                Donald Cannon-Flores

2016    Jefferson                     PSAL                Shamorie Ponds

2015    Wings Academy          PSAL                Jessie Govan

2014    Christ the King            CHSAA             Andre Walker

2013    Christ the King            CHSAA             Jon Severe

2012    Boys & Girls                PSAL                Leroy Fludd

2011    Mount Vernon            NYSPHSAA      Jabarie Hinds

2010    Christ the King            CHSAA             Omar Calhoun

2009    Rice                             CHSAA             Durand Scott

2008    Lincoln                         PSAL                Lance Stephenson

2007    Lincoln                         PSAL                Lance Stephenson

2006    Mount Vernon            NYSPHSAA      Jonathan Mitchell

2005    Niagara Falls               NYSPHSAA      Paul Harris

2004    Mount Vernon            NYSPHSAA      Shanty Robinson

2003    Lincoln                         PSAL                Sebastian Telfair

2002    Rice                             CHSAA             Chris Turner (Henninger)

2001    St. Raymond                CHSAA             Chris McCrae

2000    Mount Vernon            NYSPHSAA      Ben Gordon

1999    Rice                             CHSAA             Kenny Satterfield

1998    Rice                             CHSAA             Anthony Glover

1997    Long Island Lutheran  NYSAIS            Emeka Erege

1996    Rice                             CHSAA             Anthony Glover

1995    Lincoln                         PSAL                Stephon Marbury

1994    Rice                             CHSAA             Felipe Lopez

1993    St. Raymond                CHSAA             Tyler Brown

1992    Bishop Loughlin          CHSAA             John Wallace

1991    Mount Vernon            NYSPHSAA      Rasul Salahuddin

1990    Grady                          PSAL                Effram Whitehead

1989    Christ the King            CHSAA             Khalid Reeves

1988    Tolentine                     CHSAA             Malik Sealy

1987    Our Savior Lutheran    NYSAIS            Arnold Bernard

1986    Binghamton                NYSPHSAA      King Rice

1985    All Hallows                  CHSAA             Darryl Walker

1984    Truman                       PSAL                Rod Strickland

1983    Bishop Loughlin          CHSAA             Russell Pierre (No. Babylon)

1982    Franklin                       PSAL                Walter Berry

1981    Xaverian                      CHSAA             Chris Mullin

1980    Holy Trinity                 CHSAA             Matt Doherty

Overall Champions by Conference

NYPHSAA: 7

PSAL: 11

CHSAA: 18

NYSAIS: 2

One Comment Add yours

  1. 2 weeks off for Step is a well deserved rest, 4 weeks for Luhi, which really had no playoff competition, is a negative
    AJ Griffin (frosh) and Soriano have developed into stronger players during the course of the season and the CHSAA playoffs is a trial by fire.
    Frankie Policelli won’t be 8/11 on 3s this game, he’ll have a big defender in his face and be forced to play hard all game
    Step played Luhi only 48 hours after their epic match with Iona in the County Center

    Like

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