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I-Prep draws inspiration from soccer team

Davon Gant and Terrance James remember what the atmosphere around school was like last fall when International Preparatory at Grover’s boys soccer team was making its run to the state championship.

It was awesome as school spirit reigned supreme, but at the same time the two couldn’t help but think wouldn’t it be great if basketball could pull off such a postseason run?

The Presidents have, so they’ve been living the dream this week, but it’s time for all of them to return to work. The championship is within reach.

Standing between I-Prep (19-4) and the title in Glens Falls is New York Mills (21-3). The Presidents meet the defending state champions out of Section III at 10 a.m. Friday in Glens Falls Civic Center in the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class D semifinal. The winner plays for the state title at 5:30 p.m. Saturday.

“We want to go in the soccer footsteps,” Gant said.

“It’s been fun,” said James of the basketball team’s run. “It’s not going to be at its highest point of fun until we finish it off. … When soccer was winning, we were talking we’re going to do the same things, and now we’re making it happen.”

While there has been chatter that I-Prep played the de facto state championship game two weekends ago when it beat then-state No. 1 Sherman, playing a Section VI final at Jamestown Community College is nothing like playing at Glens Falls. There’s different pressure and excitement all rolled into one. Plus, New York Mills is no joke. The Marauders haven’t lost to a Class D-size school since 2013 and have played at least one game in Glens Falls Civic Civic Center five of the past six seasons.

Glens Falls is almost a second home to the Marauders. What will Grover do to not get caught up in the moment or play uncharacteristically?

“We’ve got to stay as disciplined as possible,” Presidents coach Shaunessy Ryan said. “If we can share the ball, make that defense try to keep up with us, that should be the difference we’re looking for.”

Big games from Xavier Maye (18.3 ppg, 10.0 rpg) and Gant (15.1, 10.4 rpg) inside the paint will be a key. So will be getting out and running, the secret to the athletic Presidents’ success. James averages 16.1 points per game.

On defense, I-Prep must make sure Mills’ solid shooters are being bothered and not having clean looks at their target. While the Presidents won last Saturday against Prattsburgh, the Vikings shot well from outside – often having a ball handler go from driver to screener after dishing the rock to an open teammate behind him. New York Mills likes to have its point guard drive and dish to open players in the perimeter.

“We all have to talk on the court … and step up on the shooters,” said the 6-foot-5 Gant, who was one block away from posting a triple-double in last week’s regional win.

If the Presidents do that and don’t get caught up in the atmosphere created by the home of the state basketball championships, they have the potential to turn another tournament into the memory of a lifetime.

“It would be amazing if we could get two state titles in one year at this school,” Ryan said. “The school, while it’s turning into a soccer powerhouse, they want to show the basketball team is no joke. They’re looking forward to the opportunity to keep it going.”