SPRING VALLEY – What a good week it was of boys basketball at Hall High School!
The Hall Red Devils went from two games under .500 to two games over, using a perfect 4-0 run to claim the championship of their own 40th annual Colmone Classic, 56-54, over the Mendota Trojans on Saturday night.
With the victory, the Red Devils avenged a season-opening 69-54 loss to Mendota at the Seneca Thanksgiving Tournament.
The Trojans went on to claim the championship last month in Seneca but not the Colmone Classic. This was Hall’s seventh title in the history of the tournament and their first since 2004.
“All the credit goes to the kids. It wasn’t the coaching,” said Hall coach Mike Filippini. “It was the kids. Our kids deserved to win this game. We played Mendota the first game of the year, and they beat us by 15 points. They embarrassed us. They had 18 offensive rebounds, pushed us all over the place. We looked terrible.
“This is what a championship game is supposed to look like. There was never a very big lead by either team. It was kind of back and forth. It was real tight at the end.”
Hall’s largest lead of the game, seven points, occurred in the first quarter on a Miguel Villarreal basket, giving the hosts a 19-12 edge.
“The last three games now, our defensive intensity has not been very good,” said Mendota coach Jan Thompson. “Not the way that we want to play. That doesn’t have anything to do with the other team and how they play. We simply have to play better defensively.”
The Red Devils led by six, 29-23, on a Zach Urbanski three-pointer with 2:21 to go in the first half. Mendota closed out the half with a Sam Bowne hoop and 1-2 free throws by James Carroll, as Hall led by just three, 29-26, at the break.
Austin Schmitt’s crafty, last-second buzzer-beating basket gave the Red Devils a 40-37 edge with eight minutes left to play.
Jake Rod lifted the Trojans to a 45-44 lead with 5:09 left in the game, but Mendota failed to hold on.
Tournament MVP Miguel Villarreal’s three-point play with 3:16 to play saw his team never trail again.
“You’ve got to make big plays to win a championship,” Filippini said. “Our kids made huge plays. We were down one, and Miguel makes that three-point play after he had just literally missed an easier layup the first time. Then he comes out and makes a three-point play, and plays like that win you games.”
This game was definitely decided at the foul line, with Hall ultimately securing the championship by going a sizzling 10-11 on free throws, while Mendota responded with only a 2-7 effort over the game’s fourth period.
“Our free throw shooting was the key at the end,” Filippini said. “Ian hit four in a row. Miguel hit the one. A.J. hit a couple. We had kids step up to the line and hit them when we needed to. It’s nice when you’ve got … Miguel’s in double figures. A.J. was the high-point man. Ian, I think, got to double figures. That was huge when you have three guys scoring like that because they can’t really focus on anybody.”
Hall finished 11-15 at the foul line, while the Trojans converted 13 free throws but on 26 attempts.
“We have to hit our free throws,” said Thompson of his Trojans. “We were 13 of 26 from the free throw line. We have to hit free throws. Our best players have to hit free throws. They’re getting to the free throw line more than anybody else. They’ve got to hit free throws.
“All the credit in the world to Mike Filippini and the Hall Red Devils because they came out ready to play. They played a great game tonight. They worked their butts off, and they deserved that win. They beat us.”
Hall junior A.J. Gaeta paced the champs with 20 points, while Mendota’s James Carroll finished with an identical 20 for the runners-up.
“I don’t want to go without saying that Taggart (Venegas) and Collin (Aimone) did a great job on (James) Carroll,” Filippini said. “I know Carroll scored. We worked Carroll’s (butt) off and made that kid work. He may have had 20, but he had to work for every point.
“Those two did such a great job on him. I don’t think Taggart scored a point. Collin may have scored two. But what they did on defense on James Carroll, that’s one of the reasons we won the game.
“We had big players make big plays. The reason Miguel was the MVP was, when it’s 45-44, we’re down one, he makes a three-point play on an unbelievable layup that you wouldn’t think anybody could make. Plays like that win you championships.”
Ian Trevier added 15 points, and the MVP Villarreal finished with 10 for the winners.
Ryan Reeder and Sam Bowne posted 11 and nine points, respectively, for the Trojans. Bowne grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds.
Mendota (8-3) failed to defend its 2012 Colmone Classic title — the Trojans having won its first championship here one year ago.
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