POUGHKEEPSIE — The Martin Luther King boys’ basketball team had a couple of standout players, but Marathon played as a team and that was the difference Tuesday in the Olympians’ 73-58 victory in the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class D Sub-Regionals in Poughkeepsie Tuesday night.
The Tigers’ Romello Faison drove hard to the rim throughout the game and made 14-of-19 free throws as the junior guard scored a game-high 30 points for the Section 1 champions (7-12 overall).
Diego Castellot netted 21 points for the Olympians, the ninth-ranked team in the latest state poll, who improve to 14-9 and head to a regional showdown with Section 11 champion Bridgehampton Sunday in the Floyd L. Maines Veterans Memorial Arena in Binghamton, the starting time to be determined. Bridgehampton was a 59-29 winner over Section 9 champion Roscoe Monday night. The Killer Bees are 16-6 and ranked fifth in the state.
“It feels amazing,” Castellot said. “I didn’t think we would really make it this far. When we did win sectionals, our goal was just to make it to the Arena. I have never played in the Arena. I have always wanted to since eighth grade.”
“It feels good to win tonight, but we still want to keep going,” Marathon’s Owen Hoyt said. “We can’t be satisfied to just get this far, we needed to keep winning and go on.”
“This has been a goal for the guys,” Marathon coach Jim Holland added. “I never got to play in the Arena and these boys wanted to get there. I told the guys that we had to take care of business and we put things in stages. Stage one was sectionals, stage two was here and stage three was that every other game is in the Arena.”
Like Saturday’s Section 4 championship game, the first quarter was a feeling out process, with Marathon taking a 19-15 lead. An offensive putback by Andrew Tillotson and and jumper by Hoyt helped the Olympians build an 11-4 advantage midway through the quarter, but Aaryn Donis buried a 3-pointer, Keyshawn Smith got two in the paint and Ewing Rouse III drive to the rim for two more points to close the gap for the Tigers at the end of the quarter.
A 9-0 run in the second quarter helped Marathon bolt to a 28-16 advantage. Hoyt drained a 3-pointer, Castellot drove to the basket for two and Conor Holland drained a trey during that run.
After Faison stopped the run, Hoyt made two free throws, Castellot got a lay-up and Kenyon DePuy scored in the paint for a 16-point Olympians cushion, 34-18, with 1:28 remaining in the half.
Faison got the Tigers to within 10 points with a drive to the basket and four free throws. Marathon took a 39-26 lead into halftime when Michael Hoyt scored a 3-pointer from the left wing with 0.5 seconds on the clock.
The Olympians continued to keep a double-digit lead through the third quarter as Castellot scored 10 points in the quarter and Faison countered with nine for the Tigers. With Faison leading the charge, Martin Luther King got to within 10 points at 66-56 with 2:01 remaining.
Marathon never panicked. After a 3-pointer to open the fourth quarter, Conor Holland made four free throws while DePuy and Hoyt each made two charity tosses. Tillotson was one-fortwo at the foul line with 10.9 seconds to go to help seal the Olympians’ win. As a team, Marathon was 9-for-10 in the final two minutes at the foul line.
“We worked hard in the fourth quarter,” coach Holland said. “I think we got a little impatient in the fourth quarter. That number one (Faison) is tough. He can really play. Diego did have a good night, but it really has been about team all season. Nobody really cares who scores, and that’s a good thing.”
“He was hard to stop going to the rim,” Castellot said of Faison. “He just took it up hard every time, but we still got the win.”
“It was hard to guard them, but we just kept pressuring them to the very end and that’s how we pulled out the win,” Hoyt stated.
Donis pitched in with 16 points for Martin Luther King.
Conor Holland and Hoyt each netted 12 points for Marathon in the win. Tillotson helped out with 11 points.
After making it to the state Final Four in soccer last fall, the Olympians are trying to repeat the feat this winter. “No more three-hour bus rides,” Coach Holland said. “We’re home. At least it will feel like home. I really think the guys wanted to prove something. They want to prove they can win in hoops as well as soccer.”
“It definitely feels good to keep going,” Castellot said. “Our chemistry is really good and we know each other so well now.”
The prize for either Marathon or Bridgehampton will be a return trip to The Arena for the NYSPHSAA Class D Final Four March 16 and 17.