When it comes to traveling to this basketball championship city this season, Lackawanna will remember the first part of its one-and-one trip much more than the second.
The Steelers, who earned their return trip here by winning the state public school championship last weekend, were wreaked with foul trouble and were overcome in the fourth quarter in a 74-63 loss to Blessed Sacrament Friday afternoon in the state Federation Class B semifinals.
An estimated 750 at the Glens Falls Civic Center watched the Catholic state champions from New Rochelle finish the game with a 12-1 run against Lackawanna, which played almost the entire final quarter without senior leader Lesean Braxton after he fouled out 23 seconds into the fourth.
Blessed Sacrament (20-3) will play for the state Federation championship at 2 p.m. today against Brooklyn's Global & International Studies of New York City's Public Schools Athletic League, which defeated independent champion Collegiate, 51-48, in overtime.
The Federation tournament brings together the winners of the state's four associations. Last weekend the Steelers (26-2) won their first state championship since 1979 by winning the state public school title in this arena, the host of both the public school and Federation tournaments since 1981.
"Obviously we wanted to be the best team in the state by winning the Federation," said Lackawanna coach Tim Foley. "We'd never be happy with a loss, but we know the big picture, and we're still state champions. We're so proud of the kids and that's what we'll focus on."
Russell Holt led the Steelers with 16 points and seven rebounds while fellow junior forward Marcus Rivers had 15 points and six rebounds. Steve Kozazcka, a 6-foot-9 senior forward, had eight points, 12 rebounds and two blocks going up against University of Hartford-bound Jared Famouse, a 6-9 senior who had 13 points, 12 rebounds and two blocks.
After back-and-forth shootouts in the second (24-16 Lackawanna) and third (20-14 Blessed Sacrament) quarters, the pace slowed in the fourth. Holt tied the game at 62 on a coast-to-coast drive with 2:25 left, but Lackawanna didn't score again until a meaningless free throw in the final seconds.
A free throw by Famouse with 1:47 left gave the Cardinals the lead for good. Keith Moss' putback of a missed free throw seconds later made it 66-62.
The Steelers committed two turnovers in the final minute in which Tracey Lewis (21 points) went 4 for 4 at the line. Senior Curtis Denis added 22 points, five assists and five steals and punctuated the triumph with a steal and dunk.
Braxton (seven points, six rebounds) was whistled for his fourth foul on a confusing charge call -- the defender was also charged with a foul on the play -- 15 seconds into the fourth. Eight seconds later on the defensive end, a foul was called on Rivers -- but then the call was changed to Braxton.
"(The officiating) isn't the reason we lost," Foley said. "We had a very difficult time with their pressure. . . . They just took it to us."