GLENS FALLS, N.Y. - Brentwood coaches and players have nicknamed Ali Mableton "The Finisher" because of his artful and crafty drives to the basket.
With the Indians' run to a state championship in jeopardy Saturday, Mableton made sure his season wasn't finished. The 6-1 senior swingman scored eight of his 18 points in the fourth quarter as Brentwood pulled away for a 63-56 victory over previously unbeaten Aquinas Institute in a state Class AA boys basketball semifinal at the Glens Falls Civic Center.
"He's the best finisher we've ever had," Brentwood coach Anthony Jimenez said. "When we were struggling, he made the plays. He's the one who broke it open for us."
Brentwood (24-1) entered the fourth quarter holding a 45-43 lead, and in the first minute, Mableton changed that.
First he made an acrobatic step-through jaunt and finished from a tough angle. Then, in transition, he made a quick spin move for another layup. The Indians were on their way to a game-turning 12-2 run that included Mableton's timely putback of a missed shot that Vincent Smythe kept alive with a one-handed deflection in traffic.
"Vincent stepped up big. He finished and he played strong defense," Mableton said.
Smythe, a 6-3 senior forward, is the only one of Brentwood's starters not to average in double figures. But he had 14 points, six rebounds and five blocks on Saturday as the Indians advanced to the state Class AA championship game for the first time in school history. They will face Shenendehowa -- which defeated nine-time state champion Mount Vernon, 60-52 -- at 3:30 p.m. Sunday.
"It felt good to be part of the offense for a change," Smythe said with a grin, "and not just part of the defense."
As usual, Brentwood spread the wealth. Jamel Allen had 11 points and 20 rebounds and Mike Almonacy contributed 11 points, four assists and three steals.
"We talk about values," Jimenez said. "Like the values of brotherhood and sticking together, and the values of perseverance and maturity. You saw that today. It's championship basketball. I expected it to be a slugfest. But if you want to be a winner, you've got to sustain some punches."
Although the Indians didn't trail after Aquinas scored the game's opening basket, they did take a few body blows. Jalen Pickett scored 16 points and D.J. Roberts had 12 to present a rare fourth-quarter challenge to Brentwood, which has been dominant in most games this season.
"We dug in on defense," Smythe said. "They were scrappy, too. We emphasized crashing the boards and boxing out."
And because Brentwood wasn't scoring at will the way it usually does, points had to come the hard way.
"We had to get to the rim," Mableton said. That's his game, anyway, regardless of the size of his opponent or how many of them might be in the way.
Mableton rarely dunks -- unlike Allen, who had a signature slam off a lob from Almonacy midway through the third quarter -- but he is Brentwood's leading scorer because he can slash and dash.
"I don't fear anybody," Mableton said after his work, and his team's work, was complete.