Haldane Headed to Final Four

Boys’ basketball team defeats Long Island champ

The dream got more real for the Haldane High boys’ basketball team on March 10, as the Blue Devils took a two-hour ride to face Long Island champion Pierson and sent the Whalers home, 57-53, earning a trip to the Class C state Final Four.

Haldane (20-4) is scheduled to face Section X champ Canton (19-6) at 9:30 a.m. today (March 17) at the Cool Insuring Arena in Glens Falls. The winner will play for the state title at 5:15 p.m. on Saturday (March 18), with both games broadcast on the NFHS Network  (nfhsnetwork.com).

Haldane, which is ranked No. 4 among Class C teams by the New York State Sportswriters Association (Canton is No. 7), has reached the Final Four three times — in 2001, 2015 and 2016 — but advanced to the title game just once, in 2016.

“We’re going to enjoy every minute of this,” said Coach Joe Virgadamo. “It will be our fourth time there, and it’s a great feeling. These are memories the guys will have forever; that’s what it’s all about.”

Photos by Ron Esposito

In the regional final, played at Eastport South Manor High School in Manorville, Haldane faced a team with a front line that included 6-8 freshman Kyle Seltzer, 6-6 junior Charlie McLean and 6-4 junior Luke Seltzer. Nevertheless, the Blue Devils jumped to an 8-3 lead on a Matt Nachamkin layup halfway through the first quarter, and never trailed.

In a game of runs, Haldane led 13-10 after one quarter, 30-24 at halftime and 44-41 at the end of three.

After Pierson tied the game at 24-24 with an 11-4 run with 2:44 left in the first half, the Blue Devils responded with a 19-9 run of their own to go up 10 (43-33) with 2:37 left in the third on a Nate Stickle bucket.

An 8-1 Pierson run got it back to three (44-41) and the Whalers tied the game again (51-51) with 2:40 remaining.

But Pierson (15-9) had no answers for Matteo Cervone and Nachamkin, whose bucket with 2:30 left broke the tie. Nachamkin then forced a turnover that resulted in Cervone going to the free-throw line, where he hit one of two.

That put the Blue Devils up 54-51 with 1:44 remaining. Pierson got as close as 54-53 with 35 seconds left but Cervone and Nachamkin combined for three free throws in the final 30 seconds.

Cervone’s 26-point effort led Haldane. “Matteo has been waiting four years for this game,” Virgadamo said. “He wasn’t going home — he took his teammates and put us on his back. He’s a beast. He and Nachamkin have developed quite a relationship, and it’s only getting better.”

Video by Jeffrey McDaniel

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