Call it a coup. Call it a return to form. Call it whatever you want — the Section 9 title is back in Red Hook after a three-year absence. The Raiders won the Class A championship in a 60-52 fight against the No. 1-seeded Saugerties Sawyers at SUNY New Paltz March 1.
The Saugerties team, Mid-Hudson Athletic League champions of 2013-14, was mostly comprised of forwards, including go-to guys Paton Gibbs and Darnell Edge; Edge was the MHAL most valuable player in 2013-14. But the Sawyers — a team that hinges on big play in the paint and contributions from beyond the arc — were not ready for Red Hook’s fast break and small ball centered offense.
Red Hook won the tip, and was on the board first on a dish from Paddy Parr to Will Avis at 7:40. The Raiders shared the wealth in the first period, with Colin Bemis, Dennis Hare, Luke White, and Will Avis all putting up points. It was Bemis who put a stamp on the period, hitting a three with :32 left in the quarter to send Red into the second quarter up 16-10.
The second opened with a touch of controversy, as Hare tried to hunt down a mostly loose ball on a Saugerties inbounds play and was called for a foul, sending Red Hook head coach Matt Hayes into a miniature frenzy. Things improved for Hare, though: he ended up leading Red Hook in scoring with 16 points.
“It was alright. I got off to an odd start. At the start of the second half, I hit the side of the backboard to start, but overall I was satisfied,” Hare told the Observer of his scoring night.
Hare flushed six points in the bottom of the second, but it wasn’t enough to keep the Sawyers off Red’s tail; they led only 26-23 going into the second half. Saugerties kept it tight in the first half of the third quarter, coming to within one point of Red Hook after a Darnell Edge triple in the fifth minute of the quarter. Nick Michitsch beat the buzzer at the end of the quarter with a three, to put Red Hook up 43-37.
It was Michitsch who played hero again in the fourth: He dropped a three that quieted the boisterous Saugerties fans as soon as it fell through, putting the Raiders up 48-41 at 3:22. Saugerties would get it to 52-49 with a minute and a half left on a Shawn Jansen three. But Michitsch nailed a pullup jumper at 1:14 and Parr hit several free throws in the final seconds to bring the score to 60-52 and the blue Section 9 plaque back to the halls of Red Hook High.
“This is a great feeling,” Hayes told the Observer after the game. “What I liked the best about it is how much work we put into it. This didn’t get done overnight. We’ve been working on this since last spring. We had a lot of goals this year. We didn’t win the Christmas tournament, we didn’t win the MHAL, but we kept with it, and we talked about that after we played Saugerties in the MHAL.” This is Hayes’ second season as Red Hook coach.
Hayes, added, “They’re such good kids, they really represent this school, and I’m proud of them.”
Red Hook next plays Section 4 champs Maine-Endwell in regional state tournament competition on March 4 at Johnson City at 7:45pm