Hudson Valley Sports Report


Lourdes Basketball Coach Has A Chance To Play For It All

BINGHAMTON — In the morning, he will awake — probably well before he wants to — and contemplate what comes next.

A 10:45 a.m. tip-off on Saturday against Southampton in the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class A boys basketball semifinals and, if all goes well, a Noon start on Sunday for the state championship against either Irondequoit or Jamesville-Dewitt that should be over sometime around 1:45 p.m.

That’s a 27-hour span, which kind of seems appropriate now that 27 years of coaching at Our Lady of Lourdes has gone by until this moment, his 28th year, that he finally has a chance finish off the season with a victory.

The ultimate victory.

Rich Thomaselli Commentary

Jim Santoro will be in a suit on Saturday morning as he always is, probably wearing his yellow tie, but knowing that this isn’t some December non-league game against Edgemont. No, the moment will be real as the Warriors will try to win a state title by taking the semifinal game and getting to Sunday.

His players want it. Oh do they want it, and not necessarily and solely for themselves. They want it for their school, for their family, for the extended Lourdes community that covers virtually all corners of Dutchess County and even into Ulster.

And they want it for Santoro.

“There’s no doubt we’re hoping to end this by giving coach a state championship after so long,” wing Brady Hilderbrand said.

It’s a symbiotic relationship, and then some. Hilderbrand and his teammates will be playing for Santoro, and Santoro will be coaching for the players — current and past.

“I look at this as a culmination of all of the athletes that have played for me prior to this year and going back to when I first started,” Santoro said in a wistful moment. “I really believe that all of the teams before this own a piece of our success today.”

But not all could get here, to the state Final Four, like this one. And it’s not even close. The victory to take the Gold Ball in the Section 1 championship tournament was only the school’s second in Santoro’s long tenure, the first coming in 2013.

It was always one frustration after another.

“There were several teams in past years that I thought were good enough to win a sectional title and advance to the state playoff, but we always seemed to have Peekskill in the way, especially during the Elton Brand years,” Santoro said of the Duke University star and NBA standout.

But the 2013 team … well that 2013 team was special.

“I had a great feeling about them that they could overcome obstacles,” Santoro said. “If you remember, we had to beat Dobbs Ferry, who featured Eric Paschall, who is now at Villanova. I thought that team could advance and possibly win a state title, but we lost in overtime to Marlboro.”

And, of course, there is the spectre of the Lourdes girls basketball program. It’s awfully hard to walk in that gym every day for practice and see 10 state championship banners hanging from the walls for the girls.

But here he is, having gone farther than any Lourdes boys basktball team has gone in school history. He has persevered, survived and thrived to get to destiny’s doorstep.

Jim Santoro deserves this.

He deserves to put a plaque in his hands on Sunday and raise it above it head.

He deserves this moment.

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