A year later, John S. Burke Catholic swingman Michael Kelly still has the newspaper clipping hung up on his bedroom wall and uses it as constant motivation.
The gist of the story: Watervliet 48, Burke Catholic 47 in the semifinals of the Class B state tournament last season. The loss at the Glens Falls Civic Center ended the Eagles’ run as Class B state champions.
This year, Burke Catholic hasn’t talked much about the Watervliet defeat publicly, at least, until after the Eagles’ 68-50 win over Long Island’s Amityville in the Class A state semifinals on Saturday at the Glens Falls Civic Center.
Burke Catholic, focused, driven, playing well, cruised into the Class A state championship. The Eagles (19-4) will be looking for their second state title in three years when it takes on Buffalo’s McKinley at 1:30 p.m. Sunday in Glens Falls.
“I couldn’t wait to come up after last year’s heartbreak,” Kelly said. “We want to win a state championship. Last year’s loss definitely stuck.”
On Saturday night at about 6 p.m., when I spoke to Kelly, Burke Catholic was headed for a team dinner. Makes sense. No team, perhaps, in the state does a better job of playing unselfish – giving up the ball – often for easy baskets. Next up is McKinley, which put away Bishop Ludden 75-61 in the other semifinal.
McKinley, which likes to play up-tempo, pushing the ball frenetically up the floor, always running, is a better version of Burke Catholic’s opponent in the first round of the Class A state tournament, Poughkeespie. McKinley is a deluxe version of Amityville. It will be McKinley’s athleticism vs. Burke Catholic’s discipline.
Amityville (21-3) never had a chance against Burke Catholic. The Eagles opened the game with a 9-0 run and never looked back. Burke Catholic led 16-7 after one quarter and 34-18 at halftime. For the most part, the Eagles never sweated in the second half.
“Burke Catholic is excellent,” said Amityville coach Jack Agostino, who has over 450 wins in 26 seasons. His Amityville teams won the Class B state title every year from 2000-03. “I feel they play a lot like we did this season. The teams try to come back and we finish them off. We were on the other side today. I thought they would be this good.”
Coming off a lights out performance in the Class A quarterfinals against Maine-Endwell, Mike Coffey came off the bench to lead the Eagles with 21 points, including 13 in the second half. He scored 19, including 15 in the fourth quarter, versus Maine-Endwell. Jack Dwyer, a prototypical point guard, added 18. Dwyer can handle the ball and pressure, he plays great defense, is tough and can get to the rim.
Agostino, among others, were impressed.
“I think the turning point for Burke Catholic was when they put Dwyer in the lineup,” Agostino said. “He is very, very good. Dwyer makes that extra pass. When you can see ahead like that, that’s special.”
As for Coffey, Janeczko said: “When he gets on a roll, you have to leave him in the game. You don’t know when it’s going to stop. It’s a great luxury. He can shoot it, but he also gets to the rim and finishes, which is great.”
Burke Catholic will likely need a little something from all the usual suspects against McKinley – Dwyer, Coffey, Stan Buczek, Patrick Joyner, Michael Kelly – but I like the Eagles to take home the state title on Sunday. Whatever it takes, whoever needs to step up.
As for a prediction? Final score: Burke Catholic 66, McKinley 61