The Lake George Boys Basketball team celebrates minutes after they won the New York State Class C Basketball Championship. Despite a substantial height deficit, the Warriors beat Pine Plains 55 to 45 in the finals Saturday March 16 by following through on their cklever game plan, pursing an aggressive defense that forced a lot of turnovers — and with incredible determination and heart.
The Lake George Boys Basketball team combined a clever game plan, frenetic defense, a stellar performance by state tournament MVP Joel Wincowski — and a determined, focused and collaborative effort by each one of his teammates — to win the New York State Class C Basketball Championship Saturday March 16.
The Warriors won the finals by defeating the far taller, top-ranked Pine Plains 35-45 in a come-from-behind victory.
It was not only the first state championship for a boys sport at Lake George High, but also the first time since the late 1970s that any Section II school north of Schuylerville had won a state championship.
Sophomore Joel Wincowski tallied 33 points accompanied by six steals and four rebounds.
He scored seven three-pointers, several of them at critical times that changed the game's momentum, foiling the imposing and talented Pine Plains team.
Lake George forced an astounding number of turnovers with agile moves, overcoming a considerable height deficit. Pine Plains’ inside players were 6'9", 6'8, and 6'6, while Lake George's lineup was 6'2" or less.
Lake George's defensive attack was fierce. Despite Pine Plains players' towering height, long reach and jumping ability, Lake George held their own on rebounds, nearly matching their opponents' tally for the night.
They also darted underneath their opponents, stealing the ball repeatedly, several times heaving the ball downcourt to an open teammate for a layup. Their up-tempo defense disrupted Pine Plains' rhythm, particularly in the second half, as well as creating offensive opportunities.
The infamous "Blue Zoo" — the Lake George cheering section — was there in force, energizing the standing-room-only crowd in the Glens Falls Civic Center.
As the last seconds of the game ticked away, the Glens Falls Civic Center was filled with a deafening roar from the crowd —prompted by the Blue Zoo — including thousands of local basketball fans in the region who showed up to support Lake George and Argyle — which won the Class D State Championship earlier in the night.
As the last buzzer sounded, tears of joy formed in the Lake George coaches’ eyes — as sweat prompted by the physical game trickled down the players’ cheeks.
Section II volunteer and North Warren Basketball Coach Jason Humiston watched the crowd go wild. Earlier this season, his team had put up a valiant fight against Lake George, but they lost.
“Lake George’s defense was phenomenal,” he said. “All the players boxed out — all their moves were fundamentally sound.”
Assistant Coach Tim Kissane seemed overcome with joy as he shared hugs with players, school officials and fans near the bench.
“Our athletes were outsized, but they played huge tonight,” he said. “They’re resiliency was incredible.”
Connor McCoy, who played a critical role in several of the tournament games, was honored with the tournament Sportsmanship Award. Joel's brother Ethan Wincowski, who has played basketball with his younger brother since Joel's pre-school days, was named to the all-tournament team. Ethan and Joel later recalled how Joel had practiced his shots for four to six hours a day through his youth, and it paid off in the 2012-13 season — big time.
Lake George Coach Dave Jones held the State Championship plaque aloft, and his players rushed him, nearly lifting him off the game floor in the process.. The athletes then held it up to the roar of the crowd,yelling in joy. They then ran with it over to the Blue Zoo cheering section, and their loyal fans went wild.
Minutes later, Warrior Ethan Wincowski talked about the final game in their remarkable 2012-13 campaign.
“Coach Jones had a good game plan,” he said, “Our defense was tough, and Joel keeps coming up big.”
Ethan, who’d sunk several key shots that were critical to the win, continued his observations as television cameras focused on the players outside their locker room.
“It was a matter of doing the small things coach told us to do, all year long,” he said. “box out,” play tough defense all 32 minutes — and however the game is going, never give up the fight.”
He added that all the players were unselfish on offense, and that they all contributed to achieve success.
“Nobody cares who scores the big shot,” he said, adding that Pine Plains’ height, although impressive, didn’t scare them. “We said, ‘We don’t care, we’re gonna do our thing anyway,’ and we gave it our all. This is unbelievable — it’s the best feeling I’ve ever had in my life.”
Connor McCoy, whose last-second shot a week earlier had propelled the Warriors into the state Final Four, seconded the point.
“This is amazing — it’s surreal. No one had us for Sectional champions, but we came out on top,” he said. “It shows the determination and heart of every member of the team.”
Nearby, Coach Jones was all smiles.
“Not in anybody’s wildest dreams was this imagined early in the year,” he said. “The biggest surprise is the fact we were able to keep nearly even on the boards. Also, we got a great job tonight from our interior guys. Pine Plains players were so lanky, it was difficult for us to run our sets. But our guys were dedicated, energetic, and they had the will to win.”
Joel Wincowski, who in the final minutes hit some vital outside shots as well as charging into the basket to score, deferred credit to others.
“We just out-hustled them and focused on what we knew we had to do — it was the mindset of the team.”
Lake George Coach Blake White, who had several of the basketball players on his team, echoed the point.
“They made the plays, they refused to lose,” he said.
Warrensburg Supervisor Kevin Geraghty, an Adirondack League basketball scorekeeper for decades, said the team had an unstoppable momentum this year, and he sensed it particularly after McCoy’s last-second shot that avoided a loss in the regional win.
“The way the kids were playing at the end of the season, you could feel they were going to go all the way, that nothing could stop them,” he said. “It was a matter of destiny.”