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NEWBURGH, N.Y. — The knee-jerk reactions for the typical coach would have been to yell. And George Gaine would have been well within his right.
The Tappan Zee head coach was beside himself in the first half on Friday night, watching his usually disciplined team impatiently clang one 3-point attempt after another off the rim. Even with a one-point lead at halftime of the Class A state regionals with Marlboro, the Dutchmen were frustrated and their body language showed.
“I always stay positive with these guys,” said Gaine, whose team missed all nine 3-point attempts in the first half. “I have to be. It’s all positive.”
The confidence Gaine showed in his group on Friday was rewarded with another piece of history. Tappan Zee secured its first ever trip to the state final four with a furious second-half effort in a 53-34 victory over Section 9 champion Marlboro at Mount St. Mary College.
Pat Peterson, who struggled mightily in the first half from long range, buried three 3-pointers after the break, including perhaps the biggest in school history — a game-changing trey from well beyond NBA range.
“Billy (O’Shea) was setting a screen for me and I saw the guy was five feet off me,” said Peterson, who had a game-high 20 points with eight rebounds and three assists. “I hit it and I kind of thought the game was sealed from right there.”
Peterson’s 3-pointer with 4:01 remaining put the Dutchmen (24-0) ahead 43-32 and keyed a 13-0 run that blew the game open. Marlboro, which had led for part of the third quarter, was down just 35-32 but would never get that close again.
The victory secured Tappan Zee a berth in the Class A state final four. It will face four-time state champion Jamesvile-Dewitt in the semifinals on March 17 at 10:45 a.m. at the Glens Falls Civic Center.
“I believed in this team,” Peterson said. “I trust in these guys more than anything. These kids are my brothers. I knew it at the beginning of the season after the offseason when we were working out really hard.”
It was another balanced all-around effort for the Dutchmen, who uses just five players for the vast majority of the first 30 minutes.
Joe Letizia was phenomenal defensively against Marlboro star guard Michael Tamburri. Letizia had just three points but notched eight assists and five steals.
O’Shea had 15 points and eight assists, and junior Eric Casey continued his stellar play starting in place of Brendan Donahue. The 6-foot-5 Casey had 10 points, seven rebounds and three blocks.