BY BILL PALMER
ALBANY — After putting together two strong games last weekend to win the state public high school Class AA boys’ basketball championship, Shenendehowa came up short Friday night in the Federation tournament at SEFCU Arena.
Hofstra-bound senior guard Desure Buie scored 25 points to lead PSAL champion Bronx Wings Academy past the Plainsmen, 44-35, in the semifinals. The loss was the only blemish on Shenendehowa’s 26-game record this season.
“Despite the disappointment of tonight, it’s not going to do anything to take away how much pride I have in what we have accomplished this year,” said Shenendehowa coach Tony Dzikas. “I’m extremely proud of them.”
It had been 28 years since Shenendehowa had played this late into the season. And even with future DI players Greg Koubek and Brendan O’Sullivan, that team also fell in the Federation semis, losing to Kenny Anderson’s Archbishop Molloy.
This time, another guard, Buie, was the difference.
“He was big. You win big-time games by making big-time plays, and that’s exactly what he did,” said Dzikas.
“He was quick. He was a water bug,” said Thomas Huerter, who was named to the all-tournament team after scoring a team-high 13 points and supplying the team’s only outside scoring presence through the first three quarters. “He was crafty with the ball, and he had a good shot.”
All week, it was 6-foot-10 Jessie Govan who was Shenendehowa’s biggest matchup concern after a 17-point, 17-rebound game in the Wings’ PSAL title win over Cardozo.
But after opening the scoring with a pair of free throws, Govan disappeared as the trio of Matt Alverson, Brandon Fischer and Erik Kromer took turns using their big bodies to keep the Georgetown-bound Govan without a basket.
“We’ve been pretty good at doing that the whole year.” Dzikas said. “It was a case of defensively, we were very effective. Offensively, we never clicked.”
“We’ve got some big guys down low who are willing to work,” said Huerter. “They’ve been doing the dirty work all year, whether they’ve gotten recognized for it or not.”
But Govan’s presence at the other end of the court made a difference.
“I think we were a little tentative at the start of the game, because Jessie was there,” Dzikas said. “My concern wasn’t so much him on the offensive side. It was what effect he was going to have on the game defensively.”
And those concerns were merited.
Though Govan only had a couple of blocked shots, he altered some attempts and also discouraged some others.
Buie scored eight of his team’s 10 points in the second quarter. His second three of the eight minutes gave Wings a 17-14 lead at the half.
By contrast, Shenendehowa junior guard Kevin Huerter struggled to find the stroke that produced a pair of 25-point games in last weekend’s state final four. He did not score until the fourth quarter, when he got his team’s first nine points and hit his only two three-pointers.
That last trey pulled the Plainsmen to within 33-31.
“The offense wasn’t there tonight, ” said the elder Huerter brother. “We played hard. We made a few mistakes, but we never stopped playing for each other.”
Buie answered Kevin Huerter’s effort with a pair of free throws, Jose Perez scored on a steal and point guard Randy Corporan drew a critical foul that put Shenendehowa over the limit with 2:44 to play.
When he made both subsequent free throws, Wings was up, 39-31.
“I think both teams, defensively, were very tough, very physical, very aggressive,” said Dzikas, whose team was 12-for-41 from the field. “In fairness to our guys as far as shooting goes, they got a lot more open looks because we had to double down [on Govan].
“If you leave one defender on him, he drops 25 on you. So we had to double down, and somebody’s going to be left open on the outside. And they capitalized on them.”
“We’re proud of the way we played,” said Thomas Huerter. “We’re not crying because we lost. We’re upset that we can’t play together as a team anymore.”