Pine Bush boys’ basketball team has shown its tenacity in the second half many times, but Sunday, during the Section 9, Class AA final, the Bushmen saved all their grit in the third and fourth quarters against Burke at SUNY Orange.
Pine Bush and Burke played in the 2017 sectional final, which was won by the Bushmen. But Burke snapped a regular season winning streak President’s Day Monday a few weeks ago the Bushmen had been riding since the 2015/2016 season.
So when the Bushmen came in to try and seek a second straight sectional title, Burke was determined not to let that happen as the Eagles led Pine Bush 21-12 at the end of the half.
Mason Memmelaar, who scored 13 points for the Bushmen, put down a pair of free throws in the third to finally give Pine Bush a 23-21 lead. Memmelaar would score 11 points in the second half as Brandon Powell, who led Pine Bush led with 19 points, went five for six from foul line in the fourth to help the Bushmen stop the Eagles 46-39 for their second straight sectional title.
“I saw my team going down. I played bad in the first half. I’m a senior, and I can’t let anything slip from me,” said Memmelaar, of his third quarter awaking.
Powell hit a three at the buzzer to end the third to give Pine Bush a 29-26 lead. In the fourth Pine Bush carried that momentum to victory.
But it was their meeting on President’s Day that set up the dramatic final and eventual title for Pine Bush Sunday.
“We both had a chip on our shoulder, but we had the chip at the right time,” said Memmelaar. “It feels amazing.”
Despite their first half struggles, Steve Distefano, Pine Bush’s coach, said his team did not waver against an opponent that’s been instrumental in pushing the Bushmen to fight and claim their two sectional titles.
“We took bad shots, but you see how we finished,” said Distefano. “We watched some game film. We told everybody what was going to happen, and it did happen.”
The Bushmen (22-1) were scheduled to face Section 4 champion Ithaca Tuesday night in a state regional semifinal game.
By Bond Brungard