The locker rooms for the home team and visitors are adjacent to each other at Newburgh Free Academy, but the reactions from the boys’ basketball game between Newburgh and Marlboro Monday, Jan. 8 were far more distant.
“The environment was crazy,” said Marlboro’s Jaiden Allen. “It was just a lot of fun.”
Allen is a quiet person who is a smooth, driving force for the Dukes. As he and Mike Koehler, Marlboro’s coach, smiled and almost giddy about playing Class AA Newburgh, sounds from inside the Goldbacks’ locker room indicated the rage of losing to the Class B Dukes.
Marlboro came out and lead the Goldbacks 18-8 after the first quarter and stayed in front 32-26 at the half. Both had big runs in the third before the lead kept switching back and forth as the Dukes were able to hold off the Goldbacks with a 68-64 victory.
“We were ready to go,” said Mike Koehler. “Offense is going to come to us, but if we play really hard defense we are a tough team. And we showed that tonight.”
NFA went on a 12-0 run to start the third quarter, and the Dukes countered with a 9-0 run, and from there, it became a very contested affair as the Goldbacks tried and failed to vanquish the Dukes late in the fourth quarter.
“It shows a lot of character that we have. We calmed down and played hard,” said Koehler, after his team improved to 8-2.
Allen lead the Dukes with 30 points, downing five threes and scoring 15 points in the pivotal fourth when he dropped five of six foul shots. Denny Rusk scored six points and in the fourth, and Austin Casey helped the team with 10 points when he downed a pair of threes.
“We just kept our composure,” said Allen, of Newburgh’s attempted second-half comeback.
Sam Clark lead with Newburgh 26 points, including nine in the third quarter when the Goldbacks lead 50-47 at the end of that period. Caleb Simmons scored 11 points for the Goldbacks, but he was scoreless in the first half as the Dukes set the tone for the game.
“We did not come out ready for them. We did not take care of the ball. We did not play well at all,” said Matt Brown, Newburgh’s coach. “We did not finish. We did not attack the rim like we are supposed to.”
Newburgh dropped to 5-4 following a 10-point loss to Pine Bush, a league rival, the prior Friday.
“We have to get after it harder and believe it will get better,” said Brown.
By Bond Brungard