East (Rochester) High School put a stop to Red Hook varsity basketball’s barn-burning season on March 15, beating the Raiders 57-45 in the state Class A semifinals at Glens Falls.
With that, the Raiders closed out their own remarkable season, with a 17-6 record and the regional Section 9 championship,
Nick Michitsch, Dennis Hare, Will Avis, and seniors Paddy Parr and Luke White started for Red in the semifinal game at the Glens Falls Civic Center. They were up against the section 5 champion team, which featured two 6’7” bruisers in Tommie Banks and Cedric Davis, a player whom an impressed Red Hook coach Matt Hayes thought was “all of 220 pounds,” as well as a starting guard with preternatural flow, Division I college talent Dontay Caruthers.
The Raiders won the tipoff, but the Orientals were pressing on defense from literally the first seconds. The team looked shaky under the hoop early on, and East took advantage of Raider mistakes to go up 10-5 early, behind a pair of Caruthers threes; he ended up leading all scorers with 24 points. The long ball was an issue for the Raiders throughout the first half; they couldn’t get a good look from beyond the arc and went into halftime having netted none.
The Raiders came out of the first quarter down only 12-7, but any flow they had evaporated coming into the second quarter. Red Hook didn’t score again until 2:25 on a Luke White scoop. He was followed by a reverse from Parr at 1:43 to bring the score to 29-11, and Avis flushed a bucket with :15 left in the half to bring it to 13 for Red Hook. The anemic second quarter doomed the Raiders, who actually managed to outscore East in both quarters of the second half.
“I thought, offensively, in the first half, we just didn’t finish the shots that we normally make. It wasn’t like we were turning it over either; we had nine turnovers. The shots just weren’t falling,” Hayes told the Observer after the game.
Hare came out firing in the third quarter, in which he had Red Hook’s highest scoring quarter with nine. The team outscored East 16-13, and both Hare and Red Hook’s Tucker Griffin hit three pointers in the period. Avis and Michitsch also got on the board in the third with a bucket apiece, and the quarter ended with Red Hook down by 13 at 42-29.
There was some swashbuckling in the fourth, as Griffin drained another three to open the quarter and Michitsch capitalized on an and-one opportunity on a flying, high-arcing hookshot at 3:38 to score three, sending the Red Hook crowd into hysterics and bringing the Raiders to within single digits of East for the first time since the second quarter. His play brought the score to 49-41.
Michitsch also drained Red’s final bucket of the season to reduce the lead to 51-45 before the Raiders were forced into an agonizing endgame foul routine.
With the final seconds ticking off the clock and the loss a foregone conclusion, the Red Hook crowd gave the boys one last full-hearted chant: “WE STILL LOVE YOU.” It was the final four-syllable encouragement of a memorable 2014 postseason.
Parr and White were given standing ovations by Raider fans as they walked to the bench after both the teams coordinated a final round of substitutions to honor their departing seniors.
After the game, Hayes said, “I want to take a little bit of time to enjoy what we’ve accomplished now: all the little things, all the game preparation, coming up here for this week. We didn’t have a chance to enjoy it. We wanted to come up here and win. They’re a good team, and I don’t have any shame in losing to them.”
He added, “I can’t say anything negative about my guys. They represent our school very well. Something that I’m going to relay to them in the locker room is that three different guys from the state just came up to me and complimented me on how hard they played, how well they played, how they came back and they fought.”
This season was the Raiders’ best since 2010-11 season when they were knocked out of the state tournament in the semifinals but still collected a 19-3 record.
East High was defeated in the championship game March 16, 66-44, by Scotia-Glenville.