Friends Academy boys basketball falls short in Class B state final
GLENS FALLS, N.Y. – Names were being called. A championship trophy was being handed out. And CJ Williams was making his way down the Friends Academy bench. The 6-8 center stopped in front of each teammate, leaned over to put his forehead to theirs and spoke to each. Every one of them emerged from the encounter teary.
There could be no crueler cut for the Quakers than Sunday’s NYSPHSAA Class B championship game against Section II’s Ichabod Crane. It began with them scoring the game’s first 13 points. It became incredible tense when they effectively used a fouling strategy to close a late deficit. But in the end the Riders’ sprite sophomore, Jack Mullins, rebounded his own missed free throw amid a crew of Friends players with 4.8 seconds left and dribbled away to seal the Quakers’ 63-62 defeat.
“This one is going to hurt for a long, long time,” Friends Academy coach Matt Johnsen said. “We gutted it out to the very end, but that team is a deserving champion.”
Point guard Malachi Polson was nearly inconsolable in the moments after the loss and broke down in the arms of Johnsen after collecting the runner-up trophy with teammates. Later, he said “I give credit to them – they’re a hell of a team.”
“They fought back hard,” Polson added. “We're usually that team that fights back hard and when we got hit, we didn’t respond the way we usually do.”
In their semifinal win Saturday, the Quakers were 11-for-11 on the free throw line. Against the Riders, they missed eight; three of those misses came as they were cutting into a fourth-quarter deficit.
“We just didn’t execute like we do normally,” Johnsen said. “They had two big guys and they bracketed CJ and kept him from becoming a problem for them.”
Gabe Ferencz started fast and never let up, finishing with a game-high 21 points for Friends (23-3). Polson added 19 points and Williams had 12 points and 19 rebounds for the Quakers.
“Gabe was fantastic – he is truly a big-game player,” Johnsen said. “I am not surprised at the performance he turned in with so much at stake.”
Brett Richards and Alex Schmidt had 19 points apiece and Mullins added 16 points for Ichabod Crane (21-7).
Polson and Ferencz each scored five in the game-opening 13-0 run and Friends held that 13-point advantage to the end of the first quarter and still led 32-27 at halftime. The Quakers were up two after three quarters, but the Riders finally caught up and passed them in the fourth, going up 61-54 on a Mullins layup with 1:28 left to play. Logan Mott scored on a drive 13 seconds later and the Quakers went to fouling.
The Riders missed the front end of its first two one-and-ones to get the comeback started and when Polson made a three-point play with 5.8 seconds left it was 63-62.
They fouled Mullins and called a timeout after he missed the first shot, but got stunned at the end.
“I thought we’d do it when I got the ‘and-1’ but time ran out on us,” Polson said. “We had a great season. There’s no group I’d rather win or lose with.”