Nazareth Academy nets historic win - Catholic Courier

Nazareth Academy nets historic win

Pop basketball quiz: When does a mere 43 points rate as a stellar offensive performance for a team?
 
a) When your opponent has only allowed an average of 20 points in its three previous games.
 
b) When the same opponent scores 12 fewer points than you.
 
c) When all that occurs with a state title on the line.
 
d) All of the above.
 
Nazareth Academy correctly answered "d" by virtue of its 43-31 victory over Hoosic Valley, and in doing so aced the state Class C tournament. The historic win — Nazareth had never previously earned a state title in any school sport — occurred March 22 at Hudson Valley Community College.
 
However, victory seemed far from certain in the early going as the Lasers allowed the game’s first eight points to the taller Indians. That prompted a quick time-out by Coach Chris Belmont.
 
"We didn’t come all that way to lose," said Porsche Gavin, the Lasers’ steady senior point guard. "He told us to go get what we came for. That fired us up."
 
Increased defensive pressure began to turn the tide, and the Lasers were within 11-10 after one quarter. They went into halftime still down by a point, 20-19, but completely took over after intermission. Nazareth reeled off 10 straight points near the end of the third quarter to go up 32-23 entering the final period, and stayed comfortably ahead as the defense allowed Hoosic Valley only 11 second-half points.
 
"They kept their composure, didn’t panic. What do you say, ice water in their veins?" Belmont remarked.
 
Nazareth faced a formidable foe in the Indians, who had allowed point totals of just 26, 11 and 23 in their three previous state-tournament games and also beaten the Lasers in last year’s state semifinal, when both schools competed in Class B. Hoosic Falls entered the title game with a 26-1 record.
 
"We knew their defense was very good. They pride themselves on it, talk about it all the time," Belmont said.
 
Gavin, a senior point guard, was named the tournament Most Valuable Player and finished with 11 points. Teammate Janine Swanson joined her on the all-tournament team by also finishing with 11, and Megan Morrell had nine points and 11 rebounds.
 
The Lasers had reached the state title game with a 62-40 win over Greene of Section 4 in a March 21 semifinal. They led 22-14, 35-18 and 46-27 at the quarter breaks and were topped by Swanson with 18 points, Harley Cleary with 15, Morrell with 11 and Julia Crilly with 10.
 
In quarterfinal play on March 14, the Lasers won 58-40 over Salamanca of Section 6 by blasting to a 27-10 halftime lead and amassing a 15-point run in the second half. Gavin led the way with 17 points, followed by Morrell with 14 points and 11 boards, and Cleary with 10 points.
 
Nazareth had gained entry into the NYSPHSAA tourney with a 54-35 triumph over Perry in state-qualifier play on March 7 as Morrell and Gavin had 12 and 11 points, respectively. That followed a 52-38 win over Bloomfield two days earlier in the Section 5 Class CC final, when the Lasers held a 20-3 second-quarter scoring edge to take a 31-17 halftime lead. Gavin gained sectional MVP honors with a team-high 11 points, and Morrell had 10.
 
Nazareth posted a final record of 23-5 in 2008-09. The state title is the crowning touch for a Laser program that has been dominant locally, having now won eight Section 5 championships in the last 11 years and making six trips to the state Final Four in the last eight seasons.
 
It was a tiny squad with nobody over 5 feet, 10 inches tall, which is a real departure from typical Belmont squads that have traditionally relied on towering centers as their focal points. Gavin acknowledged that the size disadvantage was evident against Hoosic Valley, but that was more than offset by "our speed and our quickness, and our defense." Meanwhile, Belmont said that despite the lack of a true star, several of his players are capable of going on a scoring tear.
 
"It was just a team that was driven to do well. They responded to a lot of challenges throughout the year; we had a tough schedule," he remarked.
 
Earning the supreme prize was especially rewarding for Belmont, the 16th-year head coach, who had long ago established Nazareth as a local power but was never able to close the deal on the state level — until the win over Hoosic Valley.
 
"You just can’t compare the atmosphere to any other game," he said.
 
"I will never forget this day," Gavin added.

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