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Baldwin searches for elusive boys basketball gold

Baldwin's Shane Gatling shoots a free throw on

Baldwin's Shane Gatling shoots a free throw on March 6, 2016. Credit: James Escher

Baldwin’s recent Glens Falls experiences have come with Olympics-like regularity. Every four years, the Bruins have headed north for the state boys basketball Class AA Final Four. They are still searching for that elusive gold medal.

In 2008, Baldwin lost to Niagara Falls in the semifinals. In 2012, the Bruins fell to Ro chester Aquinas Institute in the semis.

This year, Baldwin (22-1) will face Middletown (19-4) on Saturday at 2:15 p.m. in a semifinal at Glens Falls Civic Center.

The Bruins, ranked No. 4 in Class AA by the New York State Sportswriters Association, got there with a defense-first philosophy that features constant pressure on the ball and frequent traps. The goal is to create turn overs and score easy baskets in transition.

Coach Darius Burton, he of the white towel draped around his neck throughout games, has made 55 points or fewer the goal, one that has been achieved in all but three games this season.

“We cause turnovers and force bad shots,” guard Shane Gatling said.

“That’s our style. Play aggressive,” forward Jared Rhoden said. “Get stops, get steals. Turnovers lead to points.”

Rhoden, with expanded three-point range this season, has scored 20 points per game. Gatling, the leader of the defense, has averaged 17.5, boosted by a total of 51 points in his last two playoff games.

Middletown plays a similar fast-paced style, with an emphasis on defense. An intriguing matchup is Gatling against versatile guard Daniel Grant, who has registered several triple-doubles this season and averages 13.2 points.

Baldwin is bigger up front and could control the glass with Justin Caldwin (6-7), Rhoden (6-6) and Zion Stephens (6-4). Middletown’s tallest player is 6-4, but the Middies counter opponents’ size advantage with balanced scoring. Jordan Bryan, Kyle Brown and Kenny Middleton join Grant as double-figure scorers.

The winner of this game faces the winner of Saturday’s other semifinal — between defending state champ Shenendehowa, which is undefeated, and Aquinas Institute — at 3:15 p.m. Sunday. Shenendehowa is the No. 1- ranked Class AA team in the state.

State Class AA boys basketball semifinal

Baldwin (22-1) vs. Middletown (19-4)

Saturday, 2:15 p.m., Glens Falls Civic Center

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