By ROB JONAS
TROY – Overtime was the right time for the Mohonasen boys basketball team.
The Mighty Warriors scored the first nine points in the extra period and carried the momentum to a 76-71 victory over Section 3 champion Notre Dame of Utica in the Class A regional finals Saturday, March 10, at Hudson Valley Community College.
“It's not how you start, but how you finish,” said Mohonasen junior guard Duncan Tallman.
Mohonasen had to overcome 20 turnovers and a 26-point performance from Notre Dame senior guard Dante Griffin to punch its ticket to Binghamton for next weekend's state tournament. The Mighty Warriors did so with unselfish play (19 assists) and a gritty defensive performance to pull off the upset.
“I'll be honest. I think everyone but Mohonasen had us as huge (under)dogs,” said Mohonasen coach Josh Peck.
Notre Dame started the game on a 10-2 run, but Mohonasen responded with an 11-2 burst late in the first quarter. That set the tone for the rest of regulation. For every run one team made, the other team responded in kind to keep the lead changing hands.
“It's been like that the last two games. We came out slow and kept chipping away,” said Tallman.
Griffin hit a three-pointer at the end of the second quarter to give Notre Dame a 28-27 halftime lead, but back-to-back threes by Tallman and Gregory Van Epps to start the third quarter propelled Mohonasen to a five-point advantage. The Mighty Warriors eventually pushed their lead to as much as seven points before Griffin ended the period with an open three-pointer and a layup that closed the gap to 48-47.
Griffin wasn't done. He drained a jump shot to start the fourth quarter and added some free throws to put Notre Dame ahead 53-50. All told, Griffin went on a personal 11-2 run.
“We knew he was going to be a player. He had 36 points in his previous game,” said Peck.
Again, Mohonasen refused to go away. Avery Deas kicked the ball out to Van Epps for a corner three-pointer to tie the score at 53-53. On the next possession, Tallman fired a three-pointer with a defender in his face to put the Mighty Warriors ahead 56-53. Tallman then hit a reverse layup to give Mohonasen a five-point advantage.
Griffin ended Mohonasen's run with a long three-pointer. Tallman made the back end of a pair of free throws to put the Mighty Warriors ahead 59-56 with less than a minute left, but Derek Lindsay tapped in a missed shot and Treijen Garrett sank one of two free throws to tie the score at 59-59.
Mohonasen wasted little time taking the momentum back. Tallman got behind the Notre Dame defense for an easy layup off the opening tip, and Chase Monroe sank two free throws to quickly put the Mighty Warriors ahead 63-59. That was the start of Mohonasen's decisive 9-0 run.
“The end of regulation, we got a little sloppy, and it nearly cost us the game,” said Peck. “But, I think that (run to start overtime) speaks to this team's character.”
Tallman led Mohonasen with 25 points, nine rebounds and five assists. Jared Abdul-Aziz contributed 18 points, and Van Epps added 13 points, five rebounds and four assists. Besides his team-high 26 points, Griffin pulled down five rebounds and added four steals for Notre Dame.