The Moriah Vikings raise the NYSPHSAA Class D championship trophy for all to see March 18.
Photo by Jill Lobdell
BINGHAMTON — Champions.
It’s a word heard only once in the land that now makes up Section VII of the New York State Public High School Athletic Association in boy’s basketball.
Now, the Moriah Vikings join the 1930 Mineville Miners in a very select group of young men known as state champions with a 61-52 win over Newfield March 18, in the Class D title game in Binghamton.
“I guess we finally got it right today,” head coach Brian Cross said, referring to this being their fourth straight year and fifth since 2003 in the state final four. “Our kids really dug deep in the second half and played extremely well.”
Cross became emotional when asked about the significance of the win to the community.
“You see all the fans that are here... a lot,” he said, adding later, “It was a little bit different then I thought it would be. I could not wait for that buzzer to go off tonight. There have been other games where I wished it never would go off but for today, yeah, that was a special feeling.
“It has been a long time coming for Section VII,” Cross continued. “We have some great basketball being played up here and we don’t get recognized very often, so this is huge.”
To a man, the 14 members of the Vikings described the win as one of the best feelings they have ever had.
“More,” said Final Four MVP Dylan Trombley when asked if the moment was as good as the dreams he had about winning a title. “I was not ready for this feeling. I still cannot believe this has — oh, my God, this is awesome. One of the best moments of my life. This has been our dream to win a state championship and this has been just awesome. Amazing.”
“We finally got the job done and it means the world to me,” said senior Todd Gregory. “This is the best feeling in the world right now.”
“To end your last basketball game with a championship — not only to be in the championship but to win it — it feels great,” said senior Kyle Wilson. “It’s one of the best feelings I have had.”
For senior Lane Decker, the chance to play basketball one last time drew him into a lifelong memory.
“It means everything,” Decker said. “I used to play basketball when I was younger so in my senior year I decided hey, might as well play. I knew it would be a great opportunity but I don’t think I expected this. I don’t think anyone expected this. But, we came through and we proved everybody wrong.”
Junior Joey Stahl was also named to the Class D All-Tournament Team.
“Unbelievable — It’s just... Unbelievable,” Stahl said. “Everyone here has worked so hard for this. This is a team that deserved this, and finally we got it.”
“It is 87 years in the making,” said forward Jay Strieble. “I’m at a loss for words. This is what I wanted to help this team do since the season began.”
“It was a great feeling as the clock rolled down,” said Dewey Snyder. “I couldn’t sit down for the last 10 seconds I was so happy we were about to win the state title. I don’t think we knew how to handle it. I’m sitting there in the middle of the locker room with my team and we are just looking at each other.”
“It is something special,” center Mike Rollins said. “We have worked so hard since the beginning of the season and this is our ultimate goal.”
Alex Larrow said he had watched his brother, Billy, play in this game in the past two years. He also said the experience was amazing while taking a moment for a little comedic sibling rivalry.
“It is something I can brag about to my brother, you know,” he said. “This was a great team. We all encouraged each other and loved to be at practice. It led to this and I just love this feeling right now.”
“I’m honestly speechless,” said Jerin Sargent, searching for words while a huge smile remained planted to his face.
“This means so much,” said Matt Pelkey. “We have been waiting for this for 87 years. It was rough to be the top rated team in the state last year and get upset, it felt horrible. To finally be here and to win this game, to win it for our town, it’s just the best feeling.”
“I don’t know when it is going to sink in that, we actually won the state championship,” Braden Swan said. “This is just amazing. All of the guys on this team have worked so hard the whole season to get here and we always had the state championship on our mind and we finally got it.”
For Owen Fluery and Scott Rice, two members of the postseason roster who spent the regular season with the JV team, the moment was equally amazing.
“I just got pulled up at the end of the JV season and this has been just a crazy experience,” Fluery said. “I was very happy to be called up because I knew they had a great team and I knew I would learn a lot.”
“It was great to be part of this,” said Rice. “The moment I got called up I just thought about being out in my driveway working on my foul shots and my jumpers, everything. It was a moment where I knew all the hard work had finally paid off.”
Praises for the team started to pour in from throughout the region and state.
“Awesome,” said NYSPHSAA Past President and Willsboro Superintendent Stephen Broadwell, who attended the game. “It was wonderful to watch a Section VII basketball team win a state championship. Moriah basketball has an incredible program due to Coach Cross and his leadership and dedication to athletics. The entire Moriah School District should take great pride in this accomplishment as it truly takes an entire school community to make dreams come true.”
“On behalf of Section VII, I want to congratulate Moriah Central School on their basketball championship,” said sectional Executive Director Matthew Waltenuk. “This is a great accomplishment for the student-athletes and coaches at Moriah. I also want to congratulate the faculty, staff and administration at Moriah Central as well as all members of their respective communities. When any Section VII school makes it to the state championships, I feel that everyone in the Section is pulling for them and is ecstatic when that member school wins.
“Having personally competed against Brian Cross from the opposite bench, it is great to see his team reach this pinnacle,” Waltenuk added. “Brian is a class act and I couldn’t be more proud for him and his school!”
Moriah Superintendent William Larrow, whose son Alex is a member of the team, was overjoyed for him and the district.
“It has been phenomenal,” Larrow said. “All of the fans who have came out and all the players who have participated in the games has been just a great weekend for boys and girls basketball in Moriah.”
Many Moriah faithful had a long day March 18, starting their day at Hudson Valley Community College, where the Moriah girls played in their first ever state semifinal, before traveling two-plus hours to support the boys team.
“Everyone in the community was traveling all around the North Country and now the state, it has been amazing,” Larrow said. “To finally see this happen is amazing. The players played their hearts out, the coaches did a great job and the fans came out to support these kids and we could not ask for anything better.”
“This state championship means so much to this community,” said Deputy Mayor Matthew Brassard, who was also a member of the 2003 team. “It’s something we have dreamed of forever. We had come so close four other times and it seemed like we maybe would never get the monkey off our backs. The amount of community support that this town gave to the boys and girls is amazing. It sure makes me proud to be from this town and proud to say I am a government official in this town representing great people, and outstanding athletes.”
Brassard said the moment was one he and his former teammates had been waiting for, to finally see a championship in the hallway of the school.
“All I can say is wow,” he said. “This is something I have wanted forever. Even though it’s been 14 years since I played with a great group of guys, I still felt like I was apart of every team since I graduated. I am extremely happy for coach Cross and coach Tesar. This is something they have been after since 2003. I don’t think there are two other coaches in this state more deserving to get this state championship.”
Brassard also showed his appreciation for the current players.
“I want to say thank you,” Brassard said. “Thank you for doing this, you have no idea how much this means to me and I’m sure every past Moriah basketball player. You finished a dream we all had. Trust me when I say, this is a moment you will never forget, I know I wont!”
Town Supervisor Tom Scozzafava commended the team at the Essex County Board of Supervisors meeting Monday.
“It certainly is an accomplishment,” Scozzafava said. “The community, the school, and the team members are very proud. It’s not easy to get there. They’ve been there a few times, and they’ve come up short.”