BINGHAMTON - The theme of Mount Vernon’s postseason has revolved around resiliency, toughness, and a veteran core that’s endured as much as success as it has pain in recent years.
Mount Vernon blew a 26-point lead to Scarsdale in the Section 1 final but refocused and won in overtime. They squandered a huge lead to Pine Bush in regionals. They came out miserably slow against Corning in the state quarters and was even worse on Saturday versus Westbury in the semis. Again and again, the Knights regrouped and found ways to win.
But Sunday wasn’t about showing resolve. Mount Vernon instead rediscovered the identity of the program’s dominance in the 21st century. The Knights went out in the state championship game and played like the Kings of New York.
Mount Vernon put together four dominant quarters and perhaps its best all-around effort of the year to topple Section 5’s Fairport, 59-48, in the NYSPHSAA Class AA championship at Floyd Maines Arena in Binghamton. It’s the 11th title in program history and the seventh since 2000, all coming under head coach Bob Cimmino.
“We had so many ups and downs during the year as far as games go,” Cimmino said. “But not one kid on this team put their head down. They fought and fought and we just got better right now. This group listens. I’m proud of these guys.”
The Knights (22-4), ranked No. 14 in the News 12 Varsity Tri-State poll, peaked on Sunday against a Fairport team that entered 24-1 and ranked No. 3 in the NYSSWA poll, behind only Lincoln (PSAL) and Long Island Lutheran.
Mount Vernon shot 45-percent from the field, turned the ball over just five times and received significant contributions up and down its bench to win its 12th straight game and claim its first state crown since 2012.
“I could go back to my ninth-grade year and say that we did not accomplish what we wanted to accomplish,” Knights senior Noah Morgan said. “But this year, I can say we accomplished it.”
Morgan had as big a part in that as anyone. A four-year player and three-year starter, he delivered a stellar final four weekend, capped with 14 points, nine rebounds and three assists in the final. Jason Douglas-Stanley scored 16 points, including four 3-pointers, and Demetre Roberts earned MVP honors with 11 points, five assists and four rebounds.
The trio ignited an early rush for Mount Vernon, which scored just six in the first quarter of Saturday’s semifinal against Westbury. The Knights had a different purpose on Sunday, staking a 19-9 advantage after one, highlighted by Douglas-Stanley’s 30-footer at the buzzer for 3.
“We started off great and that was key,” Morgan said. “We started off with an early lead and never really let them come back. We played well on the defensive end and we put four quarters together today.”
Fairport made a few pushes in the second and third quarters but never really got Mount Vernon to break. Jayquan Smith, as he has all postseason, contributed crucial minutes off the bench. The 6-foot-4 senior had nine points and seven rebounds in 14 minutes, many of which came when 6-9 star Greg Calixte sat with foul trouble.
The celebration for the Knights was clearly a release of exhilaration, but also relief after coming up short in recent years.
Mount Vernon, back on top pic.twitter.com/PZcfWaEfxw— Kevin Devaney Jr. (@KDJ_N12Varsity) March 19, 2017
“I remember when I was in eighth grade on Junior Knights,” Douglas-Stanley said. “All I wanted was to be a Mount Vernon Knight. Now I have my picture on the wall in the gym. I can come back when I’m in college, look up and see my face up there. My team and I did what we had to do to get this win.”
Roberts was especially overcome with emotion in the final seconds, pulling the front of his jersey over his eyes to conceal his tears.
“When I started crying, all I could think about was my brother,” Roberts said. “I could think about him growing up and seeing me on that wall. It was very emotional for me.”
Mount Vernon will bask in being the public school state champs for a few days before getting back to work for this weekend.
The Knights return to action on Friday at the Glens Falls Civic Center against Long Island Lutheran in the Federation Tournament of Champions at 7 p.m. Cardinal Hayes and PSAL champ Lincoln meet in the other semifinal at 9 and the winners square off on Saturday at 9.
“There’s no better place to be than Mount Vernon for this,” Cimmino said. “The fellas have been told how important they are to the city and the city’s self-esteem. Now, they’ve contributed to uplifting the whole city. We have so much support. The city is going to give us a celebration.”