GLENS FALLS, N.Y. - It hasn't exactly been March Madness for Long Island Lutheran. More like March Mildness.
The Crusaders hadn't played a game since March 1, and Friday night, in the state Federation Class A semifinals, the edge clearly was lacking.
Lutheran started slowly, allowing a 17-3 run in the first quarter, and never caught up, losing to Buffalo Nichols, 85-66, before a modest crowd at the Glens Falls Civic Center.
"I have no idea what to expect from these guys," coach John Buck said before the game. "We haven't played a game in more than three weeks."
He certainly expected more than what he got Friday night. Though the rust was evident, that wasn't the only reason Lutheran (20-8) failed to successfully defend its state title. Nichols (23-7) had a lot to do with it.
The Vikings shot a spectacular 68 percent from the field in the first half (17-for-25), including seven three-pointers, to build a 47-32 halftime advantage. They featured an unstoppable inside-outside combination of Virginia-bound 6-8 center Will Regan (16 first-half points) and Stan Wier (18 first-half points, four treys).
Wier, a sophomore, finished with 31 points, including six three-pointers and the 1,000th point of his career. Regan scored 28.
Hart Gliedman led Lutheran with 24 points, 14 in the fourth quarter. Achraf Yacoubou, the Crusaders' leading scorer at 20 points per game, had a rough night. He couldn't stop Wier during their mano-a-mano duels and managed only 10 points. Mike Florin had 12 points on four treys.
Each school made nine three-pointers in the wide-open game.
Nichols (23-7) will face Jamesville-Dewitt on Saturday night. The Red Rams, who lost to Lutheran in last year's final, defeated Bedford Academy, 67-54, behind 6-10 sophomore Dajuan Coleman's 31 rebounds, a Federation single-game record. Coleman and Lamar Kearse scored 23 points each.
It got even worse in the second half for Lutheran. Regan showed soft hands and nice spin moves in the low post as he scored four third-quarter baskets, and Wier knocked down two more threes as Nichols built a 67-43 lead after three quarters. The lead grew to 25 points after Wier and Regan produced six straight quick points early in the fourth quarter.
In a scheduling oddity, the Crusaders qualified automatically for the Federation tournament before the season because they are the only Class A independent team in the state. "Glens Falls is what we play for," Buck said.
The Crusaders came up empty in what turned out to be their final game at the Civic Center. Next year, they'll be playing for a trip to Albany, which replaces Glens Falls as the site of the Federation tournament.
Glens Falls remains the site of the state public school tournament and recently signed a three-year deal to keep the event here until 2013.