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Ketcham Goes From 0-5 Start To League Championship

WAPPINGERS FALLS – The journey – the improbable journey – is complete.

The Roy C. Ketcham High School boys basketball team has won the Section 1, Conference I, League A championship after a thrilling 49-47 victory over Arlington on Wednesday night.

Let it roll off the tongue.

Let it wrap around the mind.

Because a quarter of the way through this season, it just didn’t seem possible.

The Indians were 0-5 to start the year and then pulled off an overtime victory over a very good Roosevelt team in the Duane Davis Memorial Tournament to kick start its run. The pieces all started to fall together that led to 12 wins in their final 15 games, including a 7-1 league mark. The only blemish was a loss to archrival John Jay.

“Man it feels absolutely amazing to be league champions,” Ketcham senior Brendan Cassidy said. “As a program we have worked incredibly hard to get to where we are now and it’s a great feeling.”

And it’s a feeling that hasn’t been known for 25 years. The last time RCK boys won a league title was the 1994-95 season when Danny McMaster led the team and current coach Mike Paino was a freshman.

“I don’t know if there are words for this,” an elated Paino said.

Yet what seemed improbable to some wasn’t so far-fetched for others.

“From the summer and fall leagues we knew Ketcham had a lot of talent,” Arlington coach Matt Hoyt said. “We knew they were going to be strong competition. I was a little surprised at their start to the season, but it’s no surprise that it came down to the two of us.”

Ketcham played hard, Ketcham played clutch, and nowhere was that more personified than in Cassidy. Time and again in this one the Indians got a bit of separation in the game – five, six, seven points – only to watch a hard-nosed Arlington team battle back.

The last great sequence came in the final minute when Jack Sims’ free throw brought the Admirals all the way back to take a 47-46 lead with under a minute to play.

That set up Cassidy’s heroics, a long three-pointer with 28 seconds left right in front of the Ketcham side of the bleachers.

And in the timeout beforehand, he told Paino he wanted it.

“I went up to coach Paino, we made a play call and I knew the ball would come my way for the game. I had a rough shooting game but I knew I had to keep shooting and it would eventually fall for me,” Cassidy said. “When the opportunity presented itself, I stepped up and made a big shot. Big credit to my teammates, we all trusted each other all year long, through the ups and downs and tonight down the stretch we trusted the coaches and each other, stayed together and got the win.”

“He saw something in Arlington’s defense that he liked. There’s nobody else I want to take that shot. I mean, this is a kid who’s waiting for me to open up the gym doors at 6:40 in the morning to get some extra shots in,” Paino said. “To have the guts to take it speaks volumes about him.”

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