NEWBURGH – As soon as Alex Grzechowski curled off a screen, the junior guard knew that Marlboro finally had a moment to turn the tide against undefeated Chester.
The ball left Grzechowski’s hands from the right wing and Marlboro fans erupted as it swished through the net. After six failed opportunities at taking the lead, Grzechowski’s 3-pointer gave Marlboro its first advantage at 37-36 with 5:06 left in the fourth quarter.
The Dukes never looked back during a 13-1 run and knocked off Chester 49-42 on Friday at Mount Saint Mary College to claim their third Section 9 Class B title in five years. Chester was ranked No. 4 in the state.
“I was confident,” said Grzechowski, who had 10 points. “When it left my hands, I saw it was going in. It changed momentum of the game and we were able to keep it going.”
Marlboro (16-6) advanced to the state tournament and will play a first-round game against the Section 1 champion on Wednesday at Mount Saint Mary.
Chester finished with a 22-1 record
“He had legitimately the best half of his life tonight,” Marlboro coach Mike Koehler said of Grzechowski. “He played great defense on (Kevin) Stein. He had big shots, a little runner (late) in the third quarter. He just made big play after big play.”
Giving up six inches to Chester’s leading scorer, Grzechowski limited Stein’s touches in the second half. Stein scored 18 points, seven after halftime.
“We didn’t get what we wanted,” said Stein, who finished his career with 1,245 points, second in school history. “We had a great season. We just fell short. There were some things that we all could have done a little better to put ourselves in a better position.
“Sometimes, it just happens and you have to move on. We are still going to be family forever.”
In a defensive game that saw both teams held to 20 points less than their scoring average, Marlboro came away with more stops. Sophomore Korbyn Samuels, who entered with a team-high 16.6 scoring average, had more blocks (six) than points (four).
“Defense is key, that’s where it starts,” said the 6-foot-1 Samuels, who gave up three to four inches in some matchups. “I couldn’t really do nothing on offense so I had to step up on defense and help my team win.”
Senior forward CJ Faircloth paced Marlboro with 15 points, including five fourth-quarter free throws and a four-point play in the third quarter.
“They are a great team,” Faircloth said. “They have been together for a while and they know if they get the lead back that they could take it. We had to keep our composure.”
While Marlboro celebrated an extension of its season, Chester’s hopes of making history were dashed.
“Our mission was to win the first Class B title for the school and we didn’t finish what we started,” Chester coach Jon Marsilio said. “Right now, the sting of the loss devastates and hurts but we will eventually hopefully understand what that journey meant as human beings, people and as men.
“That’s who we are building. We are building fathers, husbands and good men and I think we did that this season.”