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Long Island Lutheran excited about tournament move to Fordham

Long Island Lutheran head coach John Buck talks

Long Island Lutheran head coach John Buck talks to reporters at a New York State Federation Class AA semifinal on March 24, 2018, in Glens Falls, N.Y. Credit: =/Hans Pennink

GLENS FALLS, N.Y. — The Long Island Lutheran boys basketball teams sat attentively, watching as Christ the King defeated West Genesee, 59-53, in a state Federation Class AA semifinal on Friday night.

The Crusaders, who were mentally preparing to play South Shore in the next semifinal, were laser-focused on the task ahead. Coach John Buck acknowledged their preparedness but also looked ahead to the future of the premier basketball tournament in the state.

Next year, the tournament will move to Fordham's Rose Hill Gym, leaving Cool Insuring Arena and the town of Glens Falls. It will be the first time in the tournament’s 39-year history that it’s held in New York City, where the Bronx university will host from 2020-22.

“The kids deserve an electric atmosphere, and I think they’ll get that at Fordham,” Buck said.

Traditionally, many teams participating in the tournament come from downstate. Just this year alone, South Shore, Christ the King and Long Island Lutheran sent both their boys and girls teams in Class AA. That doesn’t even include downstate representatives from Classes A and B.

“The people of Glens Falls are wonderful, just unfortunately, you’re going to have pretty often 75 percent of the teams coming from four-and-a-half hours away,” Buck said. “As you see right here, the arena’s about 15 percent full, if that.”

That will change on Saturday when local team Glens Falls plays in a Class B semifinal, as ticket sales were so immense that the Federation committee opted to break Saturday’s schedule into two sessions, alleviating the worry of Glens Falls fans arriving early and holding seats for the 3 p.m. game against South Bronx Prep.

That is the exception, though, and not the rule.

“It’s going to be better,” LuHi girls coach Rich Slater said. “How many people does Rose Hill seat? Three thousand? Even 1,500 people sounds like 10,000 people. You’re going to get all the New York City, tri-state area fans. It’ll be good for high school basketball.”

Known for its stonework and small feel, the Rose Hill Gym opened in 1925 and is the oldest on-campus venue in Division I college basketball. It seats 3,200 people, and Slater said it will be better for the casual basketball fan who doesn’t want to travel 400 miles round trip to attend the tournament.

The Crusaders girls program will enjoy the added benefit of having Bronx natives Paris Clark and Aalyah Del Rosario play in front of a home crowd.

“It’s just good for high school basketball to have everybody there,” Slater said. “It would bring so many more fans.”

Buck touched on another bonus, but not so much in the basketball sense.

Said Buck with a laugh: “It’s definitely nice for our travel budget.”

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