In the previous three seasons, the Secondary School Spirits (a team made up of three schools: Secondary School for Research, Secondary School for Law and Secondary School for Journalism) scored a combined 27-22 with one playoff win [last season]. Respectable, for sure, but the Spirits were just getting started.

Senior Joshua Ramirez deflected a potential game-winning three-pointer at the buzzer as the No. 3 Spirits defeated the top-seeded Acorn Panthers 47-45 on Saturday at St. Francis College to win the Class B title, the school’s first basketball championship. The Spirits, who went undefeated in regular season play (16-0), will travel to Glens Falls, N.Y. to compete in the State Federation Championship Tournament beginning on Friday at the Glens Falls Civic Center.

Senior Jacquis Cody, who scored 16 points and grabbed 13 rebounds, was named Most Valuable Player, and senior Akeem Ellis dominated the interior with 10 points and 22 rebounds. Ramirez chipped in with 11 rebounds and five assists. Ramirez and Ellis were sophomores on the 2005-2006 team that went 6-10. Cody arrived a year later and the team made its first playoff appearance. The seniors, three of nine on the team, deservedly went out on top.

“The kids worked and worked and worked,” Secondary coach Paul Manson said, “and here we are today. They proved that they have no limitations. It’s so hard to believe. I just have to keep looking at that scoreboard.”

The game indeed was close throughout. Junior Andre Ward’s bucket with 5:40 left in the game put the Panthers ahead 38-36, but the Spirits responded with an 8-0 run highlighted by senior Ramiros Espinosa’s triple from the top of the key. That put the Spirits in front, 41-38, with 4:43 left. His free throw a minute later gave his team a 44-38 lead. But the Spirits had a cold spell just long enough to let the Panthers back in it.

Senior Rameek Doughty buried a jumper then drilled a three-pointer with 2:35 left to bring Acorn closer at 46-43. Senior Morrell Wainwright, who finished with 13 points, and Doughty each made one of two free throws and it was 46-45 with six seconds remaining. But Ramirez made one of two throws to give the Spirits a little wiggle room. Doughty still had a chance to win it, but his three-point attempt from the right wing was blocked as time expired.

The Spirits made only one field goal in the first quarter, a bucket by sophomore Andrew Edwards (seven points, 22 rebounds), but they picked up the play in the second quarter. They scored the last two baskets of the half for a 20-16 lead.

Acorn senior Tyquan Payne and Secondary junior Christopher Harris were named Nike Academic Achievers …
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