Say this: The night I called the best of the season certainly did not disappoint.
Friday night produced some of the best highlights of the season. I tried to keep up as much as I could last night on Twitter, but the action moved fast and furious. So let’s run down the key events:
• Mount St. Michael beat Stepinac 54-49 in another clash of League A-North powers. The Mount improved to 19-0 and has a real chance at finishing the regular season unbeaten. The Mountaineers only have one serious threat left: Feb. 8 against Cardinal Hayes. That is all that separates them from 24-0. Right now, they are the only unbeaten team in the CHSAA and one of two (Cardozo) remaining in the city.
• I talked to Tim Philp after the game, which was back and forth all 32 minutes until Mount grabbed control late. His Stepinac team again came up short because of poor shooting (16 for 44), but give credit to Mount’s perimeter defense, which is terrific.
However, Conroy Baltimore had 14 more rebounds and became the first Stepinac player to reach 1,000 rebounds in his career. He now has 1,009 for his career, which, in reality has been only about three seasons of games. It’s a phenomenal achievement.
Just to prove how versatile he is, Baltimore defended Peter Aguilar and held one of the city’s top snipers to just 13 points.
• Haldane’s 6-foot-5 forward Jackson Zuvic produced an achievement of his own, scoring his 1,000th point during a 29-point performance in a victory against Biondi. Zuvic gutted through the game with the flu, which made his effort all the more remarkable. He now has 1,008 points for his career.
• There was no milestone last night for Jabarie Hinds, but the sensational senior did everything he could to scare the sneakers off Bob Hurley and St. Anthony’s. Hinds scored 22 points on 10-of-18 shooting but was undoubtedly the best player last night in a gym that included three future Big East foes (Rice’s Jermaine Sanders, Cincinnati; St. Anthony’s Myles Mack, Rutgers; Boys & Girls’ Mike Taylor, Rutgers) and St. Anthony’s Kyle Anderson, who is considered one of the five-best juniors in the country. (If you want any confirmation how nasty Hinds was, just look at the picture and realize — he actually made this shot.)
I asked Hurley about Hinds after the game. Obviously, the Hall of Fame coach has seen Hinds at scrimmages between the teams the last few years. He also told me he came to New Rochelle Monday but thought Hinds was passive and failed to put his imprint on the game. “Well,” Hurley said, “he did tonight. He certainly did.”
Hinds performance in the third quarter — when he scored 12 of his points — blew up Twitter. His stepback symphony awed the crowd, but the ultimate story was all too similar for the Knights. No one on the team scored more than five points, and St. Anthony’s just had too much size and depth. The Friars held the rest of Mount Vernon to 8 for 30 and won the rebounding battle 39-22.
The Knights will sorely miss the size and power of big man William Robinson, who had shoulder surgery yesterday and will miss the remainder of the season. They lack his strength and toughness in the paint, particularly against the bigger, elite teams on their schedule.
Mount Vernon will play Rice at 2 in today’s consolation game and I will be there giving updates on Twitter.
• The drama didn’t cease in Pearl River. The Pirates hosted North Rockland and held a lead at the end of all three quarters. However, the Red Raiders rallied back in the fourth quarter behind Kahreign Joseph. The game was tied at 56-56 in the final seconds before Armando Castillo hit perhaps the shot of the season — a 40-footer at the buzzer that lifted North Rockland to a key 59-56 victory.
North Rockland will puff its chest and Pearl River will say it was in charge much of the way, but this is an absolute certainty: The top four teams in the county could not be closer. It’s really remarkable.
• Mahopac, Team Drama, survived a scare from Somers, winning 58-57 in OT. It seems like every game comes down to the buzzer for the Indians, who were pushed to OT when Ian Murphy scored for Somers with seven seconds to play.
• Tuckahoe won the annual Augie Nardone Game 64-55 over Eastchester last night behind 24 points from Sky Williams. Despite playing against mostly Class A competition, the Tigers, the unquestioned Class C favorite, moved into first place in their league. A league title would be a tremendous achievement consider the level of competition they’re facing.
As for the Eagles, it will be very tough to rebound. Sensational freshman Jack Daly suffered two fractures in his wrist during the game’s opening minutes and will be impossible to replace. (UPDATED, 10:30 a.m.) Senior Joe Ryan moved over from shooting guard to man the point and played well, according to Eastchester coach Fred DiCarlo. He must have. Not only did Daly miss the majority of the game, but junior star Dave Salano picked up his fourth foul early in the third quarter. He sat the rest of the period and for the early portion of the fourth.
• Criticize White Plains all you want for its style of play. Scoring 40-odd points in a basketball game won’t win you many fans once you move past the CYO level. However, the Tigers do one thing exceedingly well: They play defense. That was apparent last night when they held Mamaroneck to just five points in the first half of their 45-32 home victory. Next up in the friendly confines: Mount Vernon Tuesday.
• Also, for those of you who counted them out, it may be time to welcome Peekskill back to the County Center discussion. The Red Devils beat Byram Hills, which had just two losses, 51-47 behind 22 points from Shaine Carter. The game was close the entire way but it was Peekskill that maintained the advantage in a win that should return some confidence to the section’s second-most storied program.