Chaminade boys hoops wins first state title since 2003 in double-OT thriller

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Chaminade boys hoops wins first state title since 2003 in double-OT thriller
Chaminade junior Ricky Gunther (center) scored 22 points and added eight rebounds in Chaminade's 88-84 win at Hofstra on Saturday. Photo Credit: Michael Foresto/Element Media

The phrase is said over and over by the Chaminade High School boys basketball coaches, at practice, during games, and in the hallways at school.

“Figure it out.”

It’s a three-word mantra that applies to everything. Having trouble with a subject in school? Figure it out. Can’t understand why your jump shot has taken a walkabout? Figure it out.

Every problem you have, you have the power to find a solution.

“In every situation in life, you can feel sorry for yourself that you’re in this predicament, or you can figure it out,” head coach Dan Feeney said. “And our guys know that we always expect them to figure it out, and they usually do.”

No Flyers team since 2003 had been able to figure out how to win a Catholic High School Athletic Association state championship.

But the 2023-24 team just did, and in the most dramatic way possible.

Erasing an eight-point deficit in the final two minutes of regulation, then coming back from five down in the first overtime, Chaminade’s balanced attack outlasted Buffalo’s Bishop Timon-St. Jude High School Saturday afternoon at Hofstra, 88-84.

Senior Kam Elliott’s three-point shot from the left corner was the final blow, giving the Flyers (20-7) a four-point lead with :32 left in overtime; Elliott then drained the game-clinching free throws with 11 ticks left, and Chaminade could finally exhale, as the hundreds of students and supporters at the game went wild.

The school known mostly for lacrosse excellence has shown it’s pretty good at indoor sports, too.

“It was surreal, like, the buzzer went off and I couldn’t believe the game was really, finally over,” Elliott said. “Just knowing after four years of hard work, all the drills and all the practices preparing for the moments like (Saturday), it’s just incredible to do this, with my brothers.”

Chaminade certainly didn’t make things easy on itself Saturday against the Tigers, who beat the Flyers in the state semis a year ago.

After grabbing a 10-point lead midway through the third quarter, the Flyers suddenly got cold from the floor while Bishop Timon heated up.

With but 2:04 left in the fourth quarter, Chaminade found itself down eight, and it looked like the state crown drought would continue.

“We practice these situations all the time, though, all through the year,” said senior Joe Knaus, who drilled seven 3-pointers Saturday for a Chaminade-high 25 points. “Coach puts us in situations like ‘down 6, 1 minute to go,’ or ‘up 4, they’ve got the ball, 45 seconds left.’’ Whatever situation we’re in in the game, we’ve practiced it.”

That practice came in very handy. Senior Devin Dillon made a driving layup to cut the deficit to 66-60, then after a stop the Flyers got a layup from sophomore Kyle Dillon, Devin’s brother and the point guard (12 points, nine assists Saturday).

Then Chaminade’s pressure defense started to get to a fatigued Bishop Timon, who’d had to play their semifinal only one night earlier (Chaminade had three days rest before the title game).

A steal led to two missed Chaminade free throws, but the Flyers grabbed the rebound and Knaus was fouled on a 3-pointer with 1:00 left.

He sank two of them, and suddenly it was a one-possession game. Chaminade completed the improbable rally when the Tigers turned it over and junior Ricky Gunther delivered a sweet pass to Kyle Dillon for a layup with :21 left.

“Kyle doesn’t play like a sophomore at all; that kid is so mature and is so tough,” Elliott said.

In overtime, Chaminade again battled back from a deficit, and Gunther tied the game at 77 with :21 left in the first OT with a perfect 3-pointer from the right side.

Finally, in double overtime, Chaminade was able to finish off Bishop Timon, with Elliott’s 3-pointer, and subsequent free throws, clinching a celebration that was 21 years in the making.

“I love that kid so much,” Knaus said of Elliott. “We’ve been playing together since we were little kids, and when he shot that (last shot), I was already running back on defense. I knew it was going in.”

For Feeney, the fifth-year coach, the title was validation for his players and his program.

“We take pride in everything we do, and we always say you want to leave a place better than how you found it, no matter what it is,” Feeney said. “To have hundreds of our former players, students, all of these people who’ve been texting congrats or coming out to support us, it means a lot.

“To co-exist in a world with these amazing kids, it means so much to me.”

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