NEW PALTZ – Too experienced, too savvy, too adept, too smart …. too good.
Defending New York State Class B boys’ basketball champion John S. Burke Catholic High School was just too much for Center Moriches on Saturday, and the Eagles locked up their third consecutive trip to the Final Four with a 69-41 victory over the Red Devils.
Burke, now 19-3, plays Plattsburgh or Watervliet in the state semifinals at 8:30 p.m. Friday at the Glens Falls Civic Center.
“It feels great. This is obviously what we’ve been working toward all season,” Burke coach Doug Janeczko said.
“It’s my third time, and it’s just as exciting as the first,” Burke senior Zach Rufer said of another trip to the Final Four. “Being a senior, it might even be more special.”
Rufer, a guard, had a spectacular floor game with 17 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists. Stan Buczek ran the floor extraordinarily well for a big man and finished with 19 points and 16 boards, and Billy Garneau had 18 for the Eagles.
Maleek Harris led Center Moriches with 17 points.
The game, played at the Hawk Center on the campus of the State University of New York at New Paltz, was practically over before it began. If it wasn’t decided by Burke’s 13-0 run in the first quarter, it surely was by an equally devastating 13-0 run in the second quarter.
The Eagles pulled a blitzkrieg on the Red Devils to open the game, forcing six missed shots, three turnovers and two timeouts in the first three minutes and 58 seconds, and running off the first 13 points of the game against a shell-shocked Center Moriches team.
Buczek had six of his points during that span, Rufer had four and Garneau capped it with a three-pointer from the wing to make it 13-0.
“I thought right off the bat we did a good job with their press,” Rufer said. “That’s all we worked on in practice, breaking their pressure, and it really paid off.”
Center Moriches settled down and closed to within 19-10 at the end of the first quarter, and knocked that down to a reasonable 21-13 deficit moments into the second quarter. But the Red Devils suddenly went cold, missing 11 consecutive shots, and the Eagles took advantage.
Rufer hit a short jumper in the lane, Garneau scored in an inbounds play – and an offensive rebound putback and three-pointer – and the Eagles were off and running on another 13-0 run that made it 34-13.
“They closed in on us a little, and I thought we were really helped by a couple of easy breakout baskets,” Janeczko said.
The Red Devils opened the third quarter with one last gasp, a 12-4 run that pulled them within 42-32 midway through the period. But Rufer’s fallaway baseline jumper resulted in a three-point play to stop the momentum and propelled the Eagles to an 8-1 run to finish the quarter with a 50-33 advantage.
It was a remarkable 15th victory in the last 18 postseason games for John S. Burke.