The whispers of doubt began when Lucas Woodhouse was brought up to the Harborfields varsity as an eighth-grader, primarily to observe and prepare for a much greater role in the future.
"Guys were telling me, 'Put him on the JV and let him play,' " Harborfields coach Chris Agostino recalled. "I heard it all: 'Too small, too slow, not physical, can't shoot, can't score.' If I had a dime for every comment about what Luke couldn't do, I'd be a millionaire."
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Woodhouse was 5-9 and a rail-thin 120 pounds as an eighth-grader. Now, as a senior, he's 6 feet and 165, and that's big enough. And that allowed Agostino to hit the jackpot.
"I thought that to get to the state championship, we needed a great point guard. I thought this was the kid," Agostino said. "Not only is he a great player but his will to win is amazing. That cannot be measured."
But it can be tested. Agostino had to sit down Woodhouse with four fouls midway through the third quarter of the state championship game March 18. When the fourth quarter began with the Tornadoes trailing by two, Agostino heard more whispers. He said, "I heard people chirping. 'Is Luke going to start the fourth quarter?' I didn't hesitate. It was a no-brainer.
"I wasn't going to let him sit and he wasn't going to let me," Agostino said. "I put my arm around him and said, 'Take over this game for us.' I wasn't surprised. That's the perfect situation for Luke."
Woodhouse scored seven points in the fourth quarter and assisted on a crucial basket in the final minute as Harborfields defeated previously unbeaten Tappan Zee, 67-58, in the state Class A championship game at Glens Falls Civic Center.
Woodhouse, who earned a basketball scholarship to Division I Longwood (Va.) University after an impressive junior season, improved his production in every category as a senior. He averaged 16 points -- adding three-point range to an already deadly jumper -- 13 assists and three steals.
In notching a double-double in 21 of Harborfields' 26 games, Woodhouse played the game with flair. His no-look passes drew roars from fans and high-fives from teammates and put a permanent smile on his face.
"I felt a sense of joy from the crowd," Woodhouse said. "My playing well got the team going, it got the crowd going. It was fun for everyone. There was a certain feeling in the gym. People looked forward to those plays. I tried to play with a little flash and a little style."
Woodhouse scored style points with his dazzling passes, his high dribble and the way he cupped the ball confidently in his right hand as he drove to the basket. He turned the Tornadoes' offense into poetry in motion, five parts working in high-scoring harmony.
Only in practice were his teammates sometimes nailed in the back of the head by one of Woodhouse's uncanny passes. "We've been playing together for so long and they got used to them," he said.
That's why Woodhouse and his pals were able to realize the dream that began about the same time as the whispers of doubt did. "I never let those people bring me down," Woodhouse said. "It made me work harder on things I could control. My skills got better playing against the older kids. That got me tougher, too."
It all came together on that magical day in March. With the outcome of the state championship game no longer in doubt, frequent late fouls stopped the clock and allowed the long-time friends to soak in the moment. "Those last 20 seconds were crazy," Woodhouse said. "There was that feeling, 'We finally did it!' We could just stand on the court and think about what we'd done."
He had silenced the doubters. The whispers had turned to loud cheers.