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Knights' narrow win nets another state title

By Kevin Devaney Jr.
The Journal News
(Original publication: March 19, 2007)

GLENS FALLS - The only goal Mount Vernon coach Bob Cimmino would dare set before the season is to win a Section 1 title. His players, though, set their sights much higher.

"At our preseason brunch, all the players get up and air their goals for the season," Cimmino said. "Not one of them sectional. The word 'state' was tossed around like a croissant. I just sat back, closed my mouth and kept quiet."

The Knights had their ups and downs this season but realized that goal yesterday. They overcame a seven-point deficit early in the third quarter and pulled out a 68-65 win over Section 2's Bishop Maginn in the Class AA state championship at Glens Falls Civic Center.

It's the second straight title and third in the last four seasons for the reigning Federation champs, who will defend that title this week back in Glens Falls. Mount Vernon (24-4) will meet CHSAA champion Rice at 8:30 p.m. Friday.

"Of course, you want to take the season one step at a time," Knights senior Michael Coburn said. "But the stakes are so high for us. Winning the section is important to us. But only because it's a step in what we really want, the state and Federation championships."

Mount Vernon certainly wouldn't be making travel plans for this weekend if it wasn't for Coburn yesterday. The Rutgers-bound guard scored eight of his 25 points in the fourth quarter, including a pair of key free throws with 1:02 remaining to extend the lead to five.

Kevin Jones hit three more foul shots after that and finished with a game-high 29 points and 13 rebounds.

Coburn and Jones accounted for 29 of the 35 points in the second half for Mount Vernon, which trailed Maginn (23-4) by three at the break.

"I don't know if we were flat or what," said Knights senior Kortney Parker, who had four points and six rebounds. "I think we were just trying to get a feel for this team. It took a while."

The Knights were struggling to find any sort of continuity on offense and were lacking their trademark defensive pressure in the first half.

Maginn guard Taylor Battle, a senior headed to Penn State, scored scored 12 of his 21 points in the first half. He hit a leaner through traffic to start the third, then fed Shimeek Johnson for a layup to put the Griffins ahead 40-33 less than a minute into the third.

"We had to start making some plays," Cimmino said. "When we started the second half, we made back-to-back defensive miscues, and they had their little streak. It looked like the tide was turning for the worse."

Mount Vernon, which rallied from 14 points down in the second half to beat Section 9's Newburgh Free Academy in the regional final, finally started kicking into gear.

Jones and Coburn - on the heels the Knights' full-court pressure - began to chip away at the lead and eventually tied the score at 48-48 entering the fourth.

A Marcquis Abney layup to start the fourth gave Mount Vernon the lead, which it maintained until the final two minutes.

Two free throws by Johnson with 2:09 left tied the score at 59-59. Coburn responded on the ensuing possession with a driving layup before Jones put back a Coburn miss 40 seconds later to put the Knights ahead by four with 1:11 to play.

Maginn's shot at an upset slipped away when Jones snared a rebound, was fouled and sank two free throws with 48 seconds left. The Griffins later made a meaningless layup at the buzzer as the Mount Vernon players began pouring onto the court in celebration.

As much as Mount Vernon will savor its eighth state championship in school history, the biggest celebration of all could be a week away.

Cimmino knows all about walking the line between celebration and preparation in the days leading up to the Federation tournament.

"It's total celebration (today) and take in the accolades" he said. "We always say when we get here that the goal isn't to win a state championship - it's to make sure we have practice on Tuesday. We've got that."

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