GLENS FALLS — Instant classic is the only way to describe the Class A Federation championship game that pitted Albany Academy against Park School, resulting in a buzzer-beating victory for Park.
Neither side was able to grab much of a lead for the entire afternoon, and this resulted in the game heading into the fourth quarter knotted up at 42. The Pioneers of Park seemed like they had the momentum in the final minutes, taking as much as a six-point lead with four and a half minutes to play.
Albany Academy, as they have done all year, fought back. They went on a 12-1 run and eventually found themselves up five with under two minutes to play, 56-51.
Then Noah Hutchins took over. With a minute left, he finished off a three-point play to bring Park to within two. Just over 30 seconds later, he did it again, giving Park a 57-56 lead. Andre Jackson tied the game at 57 on a free throw heading into the final play of the game.
Hutchins was given the ball, and coach Rich Jacob elected not to call a timeout. Hutchins took a three with five seconds to go, and it hit the rim on the right side. The ball bounded into the corner and with Hutchins following, grabbed his own rebound, drove to the basket, barely getting past Albany Academy defender August Mahoney and laid it in as the buzzer sounded, giving Park School, which is located in Buffalo, a 59-57 victory and a Federation championship.
“We’ve been practicing this throughout the past months, situational type things, and this was one of them,” Hutchins said. “It’s crazy.”
Park coach Rich Jacob credited both his offense and defense in the victory. “I know it’s cliché maybe in its own right, but it was the defense that did it and clearly some great strong finishes, particularly by Noah.”
Hutchins was not only key for that last basket, but he was a huge reason why Park was able to pull off the stunning victory, scoring all of Park’s final nine points and had a team-high 24 in total to go along with eight rebounds.
“This was a time that I had to take over, and my team let me take over, and we got it done,” Hutchins said.
He was not the only Pioneer that had a big day as Daniel Scott tacked on 20 points. For Albany Academy, August Mahoney led the way with 26 points.
Park School wins their second Federation title in program history. Jacob, who is in his first year as the head coach, said, “this is the greatest victory I’ve ever been a part of. I’m just proud to be around great coaches and great players.”
Despite the loss, Albany Academy coach Brian Fruscio was proud of his team and how far they got, even though they fell just short in their quest for a second straight Federation title. “The life lesson is when you see the finish line, you get there, and you cross it,” he said. “We’ll keep moving forward and get working as soon as we can.”