On their first game of 2018, the Pine Bush boys’ basketball team finished the first half of their league schedule.
And so far they’ve run the table, completing the run with a 78-68 win over the Newburgh Free Academy Goldbacks on Friday night in Newburgh.
“This is a tough place to play so we know we had to come in and play strong,” said Brandon Powell, who led the Bushmen with a game-high 27 points.
The win also gave the Bushmen their fourth win in Orange County Interscholastic Division I play, clinching at least a .500 league play and a berth in the Section IX Class AA tournament in February.
“We just iced a spot for the playoffs tonight,” Pine Bush coach Steve Distefano said. “We came into Newburgh and took a spot for the playoffs. Nobody can take that from us.”
It wasn’t easy. Even though the Bushmen built an early lead, one that reached as many as 13 points on two different occasions, the Goldbacks went on a late run to keep the game close in the final minutes.
And as the Goldbacks inched closer, the intensity picked up.
“There was a lot of BS going on,” Powell said. “A lot of intensity. We just had to keep our heads in it.”
With 5:42 left in the game, the Bushmen led by 17 points after a 3-point basket by Latrell Lemmount.
And then the Goldbacks started their run, closing the lead to 11 points and then to 5 points with 1:06 left in the game after a 3-pointer by Zach Barnes, who led Newburgh (5-3, 0-3 OCIAA-I).
“(Barnes) was on fire from the outside, but we’re not going to have one guy that’s going to beat us and our five are going to be better than their five on any given night,” Distefano said. “We proved that tonight.”
Despite his 29 points, Powell left a few on the glass, missing 3 of 4 foul shots in the fourth quarter.
“We lost our composure a little bit, but we didn’t shoot real well from the free-throw line and missed some one-and-ones,” Powell said.
However, the Bushmen started hitting free throws in the game’s final minute, knocking down five of six from the charity stripe to restore a 10-point lead.
“I think we stepped up when we had to step up,” Distefano said. “We let them back in.”
By Mike Zummo