Photo: Adrian Kraus
It was an evening in Binghamton filled with plot twists. Glens Falls senior point guard Joseph Girard III found himself trapped at the scorer’s table with five seconds remaining down one point in overtime, unable to check in because an offensive foul charged against Section III champion Lowville came without any time coming off the clock in a riveting Class B boys’ basketball state final.
Two seconds later, a failed pass attempt on an inbounds play on which Glens Falls maintained possession allowed Girard to return to the floor. The incomparable star for the Indians over the past five years proceeded to author the ultimate climax by catching a pass from cousin Trent Girard, driving past two defenders and avoiding a third at the basket to beat the buzzer as Glens Falls captured its first state championship with a captivating 75-74 victory at Floyd L. Maines Arena.
“There were a lot of things going through my head when there was five seconds left,” Girard said. “At the same time, I didn’t want to doubt our team, I didn’t want to doubt myself and I didn’t want to let these guys down. When I saw the opportunity to go back in, I knew it was my time. I credit my (late) grandfather for this, for sure. He was down there with me. He helped me with that play and got me open.”
“It is so fitting,” Glens Falls coach Rob Girard said. “If you wrote something (Friday) night and you said, ‘All right, we’re down one with three seconds to go. Who’s getting the ball? You all know who is getting it, no matter what. He got it, got to the basket and scored.”
The mind-numbing chain of events turned a potentially gut-wrenching defeat into a joyous crescendo of emotion for the Indians after Girard capped a 50-point effort to secure a championship to match the state title the football team captured in November.
“We have been talking about this (winning a state basketball title) since they were kids,” Rob Girard said.
For many of the seniors on the team, they remember when Jimmer Fredette led Glens Falls to the Class A state final in 2007. Peekskill denied the Indians that day. The 2019 squad wanted a title not only for themselves, but all of the program’s good teams in the past unable to win it all.
Before the ball even went into the basket on the game-ending shot, Trent Girard already started sprinting toward the other end of the court to where the fans of Glens Falls were standing. Girard and the rest of the Indians joined in the spontaneous release of emotion as they climbed up to hug and exult with the fans.
“I couldn’t do it without these guys. They were behind me the whole time,” Girard said of the team’s fans. “I was just really excited and really happy to get the second win for this year and the first one in basketball — the first one in school history. There is nothing like it. I am just really proud to be part of GF Nation.”
Among the spectators Saturday included Syracuse men’s basketball coach Jim Boeheim and assistant Gerry McNamara, who will be coaching Girard for the 2019-20 season with the Orange.
Asked if hitting the game-winning shot was a dream come true, Girard responded, “It is a lot of things come true, and I really can’t put it into words right now.”
As joyous as the Indians’ postgame celebration was, along with the subsequent afterglow 30 minutes later, across the arena stood shocked Lowville players — many with tears in their eyes trying to come to grips with a painful conclusion — as they emerged from the locker room to be consoled by family and friends.
“That game was so crazy,” said Lowville sophomore standout Aidan MacAuley, who led the Red Raiders with 30 points and four assists. “We gave everything we had. Joe Girard is unbelievable. I can’t even describe how he makes shots.”
Not only did Glens Falls (27-1) return home Saturday night with a state title, it secured a berth into the Federation Tournament of Champions being held at Cool Insuring Arena. The Indians will take on Public School Athletic League champion South Bronx Tech (27-3) on Saturday at a time to be determined.
Lowville (22-3), ranked No. 12 in the state, and Glens Falls both made 27 field goals. The Red Raiders, however, did so taking nine fewer shots as they shot 57.3 percent from the field.
“That’s the best team we played all year. I don’t care what anybody says. That was the best team we played all year,” Rob Girard said. “They had players everywhere. They made shots. They all could shoot. They got to the basket. They rebounded and they were well-coached and well-disciplined.”
Girard, the state’s all-time leading scorer with 4,678 career points, finished 16-for-40 shooting. He struggled with his 3-point accuracy as he made 6 of 24 attempts. The senior made the one 3-pointer he needed most of all to force overtime.
With Lowville teammates Connor Bach and Gavin MacAuley gone with five fouls, Aidan MacAuley scored seven points in overtime to give Lowville a 74-70 lead. Girard had a chance to tie the game at 74 with five seconds left in OT, but was called for a lane violation on the second of two foul shots.
After the senior checked out, to protect him on defense because he had four fouls, Lowville committed the offensive foul trying to put the ball back in play. Two seconds later, Girard returned and hit the biggest basket of his illustrious career.
“I thought we had it,” MacAuley said.
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