ALBANY – The reign is over.
It had to end sometime for the defending state Federation Class A champions.
That still doesn’t make defeat easier to stomach for a Canisius High School team whose seven seniors wanted to end their playing careers as the best of the best one more time.
In a rematch of last year’s Fed final, Albany Academy proved to be a little sharper and made the big and little plays one needs to do to knock off a champion as the Cadets defeated Canisius, 63-51, before an estimated 500 at Times Union Center.
Junior Hameir Wright scored 17 of his team-high 18 points during a 36-point first half in which everything went right for Albany Academy (17-4) while little went well for the state Catholic High Schools Athletic Association champion Crusaders (26-3), who committed nine turnovers and shot a miserable 33 percent from the floor while the Cadets canned 13-of-25 shots – scoring 16 points in the paint en route to a 36-23 halftime lead.
Give Canisius credit.
The Crusaders, who have a reputation for making comebacks, went down swinging in the second half. They held Albany to six third-quarter points and seven field goals over the final 16 minutes. They pulled within 51-47 on a steal and layup by senior Justin Jones with 1:59 left. Sal Arena’s nifty finish near the basket 19 seconds later after the Cadets beat Canisius’ pressure effectively ended the comeback.
Albany made its free throws and now faces public schools state champion Elmont for the Federation title at 5 p.m. Saturday at Times Union Center.
“We dug ourselves too deep a whole,” Crusaders coach Kyle Husband said. “I’m extremely proud of the way they battled back.”
Stafford Trueheart scored a game-high 23 points in his final game for Canisius and earned a spot on the all-tournament team.
The Crusaders finish with a school-record 26 wins, including two over state public schools Class AA champion Aquinas, which beat Albany Academy last December, and a win over Class A Section VI champion Williamsville South.