GLENS FALLS, N.Y. — Chris Coalmon fills a variety of needs for the Long Island Lutheran boys basketball team.
He’s an athletic wing who can drive to the basket and shoot from the outside. He’s an aggressive defender and capable rebounder. He’s also the guy who gets the rest of the team fired up in crunch time.
Coalmon’s three-pointer from in front of his bench with 5:20 left in the third quarter extended the Crusaders’ lead to four points Friday night and forced a Mount Vernon timeout, prompting Coalmon to let out a hearty “Let’s go!”
It sparked a furious second half for the Crusaders, who beat Mount Vernon, 67-57, in a state Federation Class AA semifinal at Glens Falls Civic Center.
Lutheran will play Abraham Lincoln — which beat Cardinal Hayes, 56-47 — Saturday night at 9 in the final. The Crusaders seek their first Federation championship in Class AA.
Coalmon finished with 16 points. “He makes us go,” said point guard Brandon Jacobs, who had 23 points and five assists. “Especially last year, we didn’t really have that. We didn’t really have anybody to push us through when we were down. We really feed off his energy a lot.”
And being an energizer is perhaps Coalmon’s most important role, especially in games of this magnitude. The Crusaders hadn’t played since a 68-57 win over Albany Academy on Feb. 25, and it was Coalmon’s positive influence that amped up his teammates after the layoff.
Especially on that three-pointer, which sent the bench into a frenzy.
“In that moment, I was just like, ‘I just hit a big three for my team,’ ” Coalmon said.
That shot was part of a 12-4 run to open the half, bookended by baskets by Jacobs, who also hit a three-pointer with 6:17 left in the third quarter that broke a tie at 34.
“We were putting our foot on the gas, and we didn’t stop,” Coalmon said.
Jacobs shot 5-for-6 from the free-throw line in the final 1:15. The senior, recently named to Newsday’s All-Long Island first team, said that even though the Crusaders trailed 32-30 at halftime, he felt they were in good shape thanks to their defensive effort.
“In the locker room, we knew that we were down by two,” he said. “We had them right where we wanted them . . . We take pride in our defense. We know if teams can’t score on us, they can’t win.”