As the No. 3 seed in the Section 5 playoffs, Aquinas Institute boys’ basketball was not exactly a lock to win a title.
In the end, the Little Irish not only captured sectionals, but are now No. 1 in the state as well.
Aquinas powered to its first-ever state basketball crown by scoring a 68-50 decision over Middletown in the NYSPHSAA Class AA final on March 13 at Glens Falls Civic Center. Combined with a state Class AA football title this past fall, Aquinas became the first school in state history to win titles in both basketball and football in the same school year. Several current AQ basketball players also were members of the football squad.
AQ, with a record of 24-3, advances to the season-ending Federation Tournament of Champions at the Times Union Center in Albany. The Irish will face Xaverian, a Brooklyn school, in semifinal play Friday, March 18, at 7 p.m. The winner plays for the Federation state title the next night at 9 p.m. against either Thomas Jefferson, also of Brooklyn, or Long Island Lutheran.
In its state title matchup against Middletown of Section 9, Aquinas led almost wire-to-wire, although the contest was still somewhat close, 48-40, going into the final period. But the Little Irish, who were led by Jalen Pickett’s 28 points, proceeded to outscore the Middie Bears 20-10 to pull away.
Things were much more tense in the semifinal against Shenendehowa of Section 2 one day earlier. Aquinas erased a 45-40 deficit with less than 40 seconds remaining, scoring the last five points of regulation to force overtime. AQ then scored the extra period’s first five points and held on for the win. Earnest Edwards led the Irish with 21 points.
Earlier this post-season, the Little Irish claimed the Section 5 Class AA crown in another nail-biter. AQ won 47-43 over top-seeded Fairport in the sectional final Feb. 28, overcoming a 40-38 deficit after three quarters by only allowing three points in the final period and scoring the game’s last eight points. Edwards led the way with 23 points.