Blue Devils Fall in Waning Seconds of NYS Finals

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Blue Devils Fall in Waning Seconds of NYS Finals

By Ray Gallagher, Examiner Sports Editor @Directrays
Panas junior star guard Sophia Tavarez lays up a floater for two points in the Panthers’ 69-51 NYSPHSAA Class A semifinal win over Section 11 champ Kings Park Friday at HVCC in Troy.

GLENS FALLS – They say the third time’s a charm, and two-time reigning Section 1 champion Haldane High was hoping that would be the case as the Blue Devils (21-4) represented in Saturday’s NYSPHSAA Class C championship for the third time in school history, having lost in 2016 and 2023.

Fate would have none of that old adage, though, Saturday night as Haldane suffered its third state title setback, suffering a gut-wrenching 41-38 loss to Section 4 champion Moravia, which came up with two huge stops down the stretch to prevail. Getting there was half the battle, and the state-ranked (No.1) Blue Devils were so close to tying up the loose ends, having led for all but three minutes in total throughout the Final 4.

On the same day he was announced as the winner of the 2024 John Martino Service Award winner, Haldane Coach Joe Virgadamo watched his top-ranked Blue Devils author one of the finest performances in program history. After easing through the regional finals, Coach V’s Blue Devils secured another chance to seize the program’s first NYSPHSAA title with a 67-59 Class C semifinal victory over Section 7 champ Moriah Friday at Cool Insuring Arena.

Having graduated four starters, Haldane senior F Matt Nachamkin would be the lone returning starter. The All-Section Nachamkin, who is cut from a different cloth, would have to be a leader, a playmaker, a finisher, a glass cracker and a coach on the floor while his teammates found their roles and got up to speed. There wasn’t a thing the Willaims-bound star wouldn’t do for the cause, doing so at a level above most peers.

Skill-set aside, Nachamkin is a different breed, the type of student athlete that bolsters any program and turns ordinary into extraordinary.

Putnam Valley senior Brianna Foody goes for two of her 11 points in the Tigers’ 57-47 NYSPHSAA Class B semifinal loss to Section 3 champ Utica-Notre Dame Friday at Hudson Valley Community College in Troy.

“He’s a high-level academic student athlete and one of the best leaders we’ve ever had,” Virgadamo said. “All the kids look up to him, he’s special. He makes his teammates better players and better people. We have a very close team, a true brotherhood, it’s a testament to his leadership and his teammate’s leadership. All 14 guys are close and they play for each other.”

Against state-ranked (No.3) Moriah (21-3), Haldane senior point guard Ross Esposito (11 points, 5 boards, 8 assists) hit a pair of monstrous fourth-quarter 3’s, turning a one-possession game (46-44) into a rather cushy 56-46 advantage with 6:00 left. When Moriah closed to 56-50, Blue Devil Michael Murray sank the biggest shot of his career, nailing a game-sealing dagger from distance for a 59-50 lead midway through the fourth. A combination of tough interior defense and some clutch free throw shooting down the stretch (7 of 8 from 1:25 on) put the Vikings on ice for good and denied them their second state title (2017).

So while Nachamkin finished with 22 points, 14 boards, four assists and a pair of blocks, it took a special village, which Cold Spring is, for seven-time Section 1 champion and five-time regional champ Haldane to appear in just its third state championship game.

Blue Devils Fallou Faye (4 points), Murray (8 points), Nate Stickle (1 point, 4 boards, 4 assists), Ryan Van Tassel (4 points), sophomore sensation Luke Bozsik (13 points, 4 rebounds) and Evan Giachinta (4 points, 7 boards) were all stellar at both ends of the floor. Bozsik and Nachamkin sparked a key rally to put some distance between the clubs when Bozsik drilled a 3 at 6:20 of the third for a 40-35 lead before Nachamkin scored and then dished to Bozsik for a 44-35 lead at 5:37. Every Moriah run was answered by the Blue Devils, who scored six straight to close the third with a 53-44 edge.

Walter Panas junior Cadence Nicholas had her full repertoire — a distinctive style ever-so-easy on the eyes — on display last weekend.

Against Moravia, Logan Bell hit from distance to tie it up, 32-all, to finish the third quarter. Kyler Proper (11 points, 5 assists) drilled a 3 and gave Moravia its first lead of the game with 3:50 to go, and Nachamkin spotted Haldane its last lead, 38-37, with two at the stripe. Propper, the game MVP, drew a double-team and Bell gonged again from beyond the arc for a 40-38 lead at 2:03.

A series of miscues followed Haldane down the stretch, including a pair of costly turnovers in the waning seconds, including a key deflection by Propper to deny Nachamkin a last-ditch try to tie.

“I’m beyond proud of my squad,” Coach V said. “We’ve been through a lot this season and we were on a mission. Our chemistry and ability to play for each other was one of a kind. Matt Nachamkin is one of the best I’ll ever coach. Our culture was the best and the guys believed in each other and set the bar high. Most teams want to win the section. These guys wanted to get to Glens Falls. We came up a bit short but we left it all out there. We have memories that will last a lifetime. I’m grateful to have incredible student athletes and even better parents and community support. Our community has been through a lot and we made them proud. We’re thankful for all of the support.”

State-ranked (No.4) Moravia (23-3) swept the boys and girls state championships, becoming the first Section 4 school to do so in the same season. Moravia won the program’s second state championship since 2017.

Nachamkin (19 points, 8 boards), Esposito (9 points), Bozsik (3 points), Giachinta (5 points) and Nate Stickle (2 points) found some tough sledding against the Moravia defense, which helped overcome a 32-27 deficit, created when Namchamkin made good on two free throws with two minutes to play in the third.

Putnam Valley senior Nai Torres gains lane in the Tigers’ 57-47 NYSPHSAA Class B semifinal loss to Section 3 champ Utica-Notre Dame Friday at Hudson Valley Community College in Troy.

The boys’ NYS final fours will return to Binghamton’s Visions Veterans Memorial Arena for the 2025-27 tournaments.

Haldane will put the basketballs aside and gear up for the upcoming lax season after losing to Section 1 Class D champ Briarcliff in last year’s sectional semis.


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