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Finals victory makes it a sweet season for Olean coach

GLENS FALLS – How does one describe perfection?

In Jeff Anastasia’s world that’s easy.

The longtime Olean coach will be surrounded by his championship team during his big moment in the limelight Sunday morning at Glens Falls Civic Center. And that’s exactly what he wanted. A 27-0 record just happens to be an added bonus.

Anastasia’s dream of leading the Huskies to a state championship the same weekend as he gets inducted into the New York State Basketball Hall of Fame has become reality.

While he put the blue-collared Huskies on the right path, they put in the work to make their coach’s wish come true as they dispatched Section IX champion Marlboro, 56-45, Saturday night in the New York State Public High School Athletic Association boys basketball Class B final.

An estimated 2,500 fans at Glens Falls Civic Center listened as Olean players broke out into a “Hall of Fame” chant during the postgame awards ceremony.

The mantra almost caused Anastasia to break down, although the 29th-year coach composed himself enough to not shed tears of joy during the postgame celebration.

“I just love these guys,” said Anastasia, who has won 535 games during his career. “It’s touching to me to win the state championship and have these guys there” at the ceremony. “It means the world to me.”

Why did the players shout “Hall of Fame.”

“Coach is big in all of our lives,” said Elijah Ramadhan, an all-tournament selection. “It’s just great for him to get recognition.”

Olean made its coach’s dream come true by doing what it does best – play lockdown defense and let the offense take care of itself. The Huskies shut down a Marlboro team that tied a single-game state tournament record with 12 three-pointers in its semifinal win. The Dukes (23-4) failed to hit a shot from beyond the arc during the first half and finished with just four on 10 attempts. Olean held its foe to 40 percent shooting, while also making the same percentage of its shots.

The difference, the Huskies made two more field goals, one more trey and six more free throws than their foe. They made the hustle plays as they always seem to do to come up with big rebounds (30, including 22 on defense) and steals (6-2).

Olean made only four field goals in the first quarter but the last, a three-pointer at the buzzer by Jake Cavana, gave the Huskies an 11-8 lead. Leading 16-15 in the second quarter, Olean closed the frame on a 14-4 blitz to seize control for good.

Tournament MVP Derek Schmidt, playing with his father St. Bonaventure coach Mark Schmidt in attendance, had five of his game-high 20 points during the run as he and Monty Shoemaker drained back-to-back treys. Cavana had four points in the span, including a buzzer-beating two-point basket.

Schmidt also grabbed 10 rebounds and had three steals. All-tournament pick Ben Eckstrom added 13 points and eight rebounds and Cavana finished with 12 points.

Marlboro pulled within six twice in the third quarter but each time it got close, the Huskies responded with big baskets and big plays on defense to achieve the perfect ending.

“I am so proud of them,” Anastasia said. “I didn’t want to say goodbye to these seniors.”

He won’t as the Huskies return to practice Monday as they prepare to take part in the New York State Federation Tournament of Champions, which begins Friday at Times Union Center in Albany.

“It’s a dream come true,” Ramadhan said. “It doesn’t feel real.”

email: mrodriguez@buffnews.com

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