GLENS FALLS, NY- From the second the buzzer sounded for Albany Academy at the end of last season when they defeated Elmont for the Class A Federation Title this year's goal was clear. Get the job done once again and go for two in a row for the first time in school history.
It wasn't easy though as the Cadets were held in check for much of the game against Irondequoit, but in this season's NYS Class A Federation Tournament Championship Game against the PSAL winner Walton, things went fairly smoothly as led by a hot early shooting start by August Mahoney '19, Albany Academy was able to send their seniors off on the note they wanted, a second straight Federation title by beating the Wildcats, 76-46.
Making sure this team won back to back Federation Tournament titles was on the minds of the Cadets and all their players since at this point last season as winning the championship last year was nice, but two in a row for star wing Hameir Wright '17 was always better.
"Within the guys, especially the seniors, it's been a big goal," Wright stated. "Every year you compete to play for a championship, and to get back to back was definitely something we wanted."
To get there though they would have to knock off the Cinderella team of the year in Walton, a .500 team last season that came on strong in the PSAL Class A playoffs this season to shock top seeded Brooklyn Law and Tech at the buzzer, and then come from behind on Saturday in the Federation Semifinals to defeat Msgr. Farrell.
They would need another dose of shock and awe if they wanted to take down Albany Academy, a bigger, stronger, and quicker team than they are used to.
It took Walton nearly 5 minutes into the game for them to finally get on the scoreboard as the pressure defense on the outside, and the significant size advantage on the inside allowed Albany Academy to impose their will early on. A spin in the lane by Wright would see the Cadets go up by 8 after the first quarter, and then it was Mahoney time for the second.
Already known as one of the best shooters in New York State, the young sophomore guard Mahoney proved it to everyone in attendance by knocking down 3 three points in a 3:23 stretch early in the second quarter to see Academy go up by as much as 31-12. Andres Rivera '17 was aggressive is trying to attack the lane, but the lanes were proving to be closed often as the Cadets took a 33-17 lead into halftime.
A strong start to the game for Albany Academy, they were 16 minutes away from back to back Federation Championships, but at the same time head coach Brian Fruscio reminded his team that it would be an important 16 minutes if they wanted to close the deal and gain all the glory.
"We talked about that and we decided to make the game 0-0 and play the way we can play, and I just said it would be important to make shots and make good plays in we wanted to get the win," Fruscio said.
Not comfortable with the lead they had, and going up against a Walton team that has come out of the locker room strong in their recent surprise run, Albany Academy wouldn't let Wildcat run happen against them on this day as the Cadets kept up the scorching hot shooting that they demonstrated early on by seeing Will Bennett '17 send home a pair early in the 3rd quarter, while Mahoney hit on his 5th of the game with 3:53 left in the quarter to go up 48-18.
The fact that they didn't sit content on their lead at the half and continued to bring the A+ effort was something that made Fruscio proud of his group, with Bennett stating they weren't going to be happy until they made sure the game was there's.
"We knew they were a good team in the second half so that was one of our focus points," Bennett explained. "Going in with the lead at the half we knew the first 5 minutes of the quarter would be crucial, we knew we had to come out and close the game out and that's what we did."
It wasn't just a superb offensive effort for Albany Academy in the 3rd quarter, it was equally as strong on the defensive side as well as they outscored Walton 28-3 in the stanza to take a 61-20 lead going to the 4th, all but sealing up the school’s first ever back to back Federation championships.
Fruscio started to use his bench more as the lead continued to grow for Albany Academy with each one of his Cadets getting a chance to hit the court and get in on the history making performance as it was Albany Academy who pulled off the back to back dream of theirs, winning it over Walton 76-46.
Another Federation Title closes out one of the more special seasons in Albany Academy history and it was Mahoney who connected on 5 threes and had a game high 19 points, with the two seniors of Bennett and Wright adding 17 and 16 points respectively in championship game win.
A season to remember for Walton ended with a tough loss, though take nothing away from the Wildcats as they surprised many during their run to a Federation runner-up finish. Derek Smith '17 had 15 points to pace Walton in the defeat, while Rivera had 11 points in as well in the defeat.
Back to back was all that the Cadets players and coaches have talked about since the end of last season, and to make that dream become a reality was special to everyone associated with the Albany Academy program, and while back to back is nice, having the seniors go out on top might be even sweeter.
Both Wright and Bennett put their blood, sweet, and tears into Albany Academy basketball for the past 4 season, and to go out on top, it's something that Wright says he will treasure forever.
"With what everyone pegs me as, I think my greatest attribute is being a winner and a team player. These are stories I will be telling the rest of my life to my children and my grandchildren so really nothing could be better."