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Collegiate edges Poly Prep in key Ivy League clash

It is a chant, like so many other chants, that starts with one solitary voice. But a second later, the packed, steamy shoebox of a basketball court at the Collegiate School sings and claps in unison, the crowd of about 200 sounding more like 20,000 and is clearly audible on the street three floors below.

“I believe,” the chant starts. “I believe that we will win.”

It is more than just something for the student body to yell at the Upper West Side Ivy League school. It is also the attitude the Dutchmen, the defending state Federation Class B champions, have when the fourth quarter comes around.

“Winning the championship last year definitely gave us a swagger,” senior Christian Fisch said. “Even though we lost a couple of key pieces, we still carry that with us. We know we can get the job done.”

On Wednesday afternoon Collegiate proved that in a big way, defeating perennial powerhouse Poly Prep, 49-46, in a critical Ivy League game.

“This was one of our best wins for the simple fact that we shot so poorly,” said Collegiate coach Ray Voelkel, whose team shot 1-for-14 from 3-point range. “But we gutted it out at the end and we defended very well until the final couple of minutes.”

No one came up bigger down the stretch than Fisch, who seemed to clone himself in the final few minutes because he was all over the court. Whether it was a critical 3-pointer to extend the Dutchmen’s lead, grabbing a loose ball or an offense rebound off a missed free throw, Fisch was there.

“It’s not unusual for him to come up with a big play like that,” Voelkel said. “He’s really a tremendous athlete. He’s not a leaper per se, but he runs the floor better than any kid I’ve coached and I’ve had some good athletes.”

Fisch scored a team-high 14 points, but it was some of his intangibles that proved to be the difference for the Dutchmen.

“Christian has a terrific understanding of how to play,” Poly Prep coach Bill McNally said. “He plays bigger than he is, he plays faster than he is. He’s smart beyond his years for a high-school player.”

Also coming up big for Collegiate (17-3, 9-1 Ivy League) was Harrison Green, who struggled offensively, but did a great job defensively to limit Blue Devils scorer Alex Goldfarb to just six points.

“He was known as our best 3-point shooter, but he has become our best guard defender, as well,” Voelkel said of Green. “Harrison has been invaluable for us in terms of being the stopper on the other end.”

Max Warner scored a game-high 22 points for Poly Prep (8-6, 5-4), including six points in the final 19 seconds of regulation. After being fouled on a 3-point attempt from the top of the key, Warner knocked down his first two free throws to cut the Blue Devils’ deficit to 48-46 with 4.1 seconds left. He intentionally missed the third shot, putting the ball hard off the rim and backboard.

“It seems like the last few games we’ve got to make one more play,” McNally said. “I’m hoping as time goes on, we’ll make a few more plays.”

But Collegiate’s Will Bartlett grabbed the rebound and went 1-of-2 from the line with 3.6 seconds left, opening the door for one last desperate equalizing heave for Poly Prep. Warner took the shot, but let it go about a second too soon and missed from the corner of halfcourt as the Dutchmen celebrated another league win.

“This,” Fisch said, “was a big one.”

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