If you missed it, I handed out some awards on Monday for games, teams, players and coaches who impressed in round one of the Section 1 tournament. Now, after we’ve absorbed all that happened in the quarterfinals, here’s a look at some of the things that caught my eye:
BEST PERFORMANCE (team): Hastings — The Yellow Jackets have been much maligned here but no more. They are now winners of six straight, most recently an impressive 44-38 victory over top-seeded Blind Brook. What makes this the best performance of the week is not that Hastings advanced to the County Center but who it advanced past. The Trojans were on a 15-game win streak and seemed like a serious contender for the gold ball. But behind a collective effort from Ali Marpet, Luca Cobucci, Phil Goldfarb and co. on the backboard and on defense Hastings locked up the reigning Class C champ. Honorable mention: Mahopac. I thought the Indians would win. But I never thought they’d do so as easily as they did. They led South 58-30 to start the fourth quarter. Wow. Now it’s on to Mount Vernon.
BEST PERFORMANCE (player): Luke Houston, Pearl River — Houston faced the pressure throughout against mighty Peekskill, but he responded by making positive plays all evening. He scored 17 points in the first half as the rest of his team struggled from the field, then helped involve teammates like John Donovan and Austin O’Toole during a comeback from a 39-31 deficit. Houston then capped his performance, which included 33 points, 10 rebounds and five steals, with 11 fourth-quarter points to fend off the Red Devils 60-47.
Honorable mention: Tahj Vines, Tappan Zee. The 19 points and six rebounds don’t tell the story. For Vines, typical stats never do. But the TZ senior continues to be a pain in the neck for opponents with his althleticism, physicality and hustle. He helped limit Eastchester star Dave Solano to just eight points — well below the junior’s average of 19.9.
BEST GAME: Byram Hills 46, Pelham 45 — Lead changes and momentum swings galore. No team had a cushion of more than five points. Gripping drama in the final minutes. Here’s Carp on the often excruciating action. Honorable mention: Irvington 53, Briarcliff 52. A back and forth game, half, quarter, final minute — you name it — came down to this. Ryan Huegel gave Briarcliff a lead, 52-50, on a pair of FTs, but it was Irvington senior Chris Brennan who responded with a three-point play with 7.4 seconds to play. His shot tied it, his free throw gave the Bulldogs a lead, and Briarcliff missed a shot at the buzzer. Thrilling action.
BEST COACHING JOB: Stan Hamlet, Keio — His team had improved greatly since posting a 1-17 record a season ago, but Hamlet, the first-year Keio coach, may have done his best work on Wednesday. His team had dropped both games to Hamilton, 53-44 and 53-42. Yet the Unicorns recovered nicely and led just about the whole way in meeting No. 3. Any coach that helps flip the outcome after two regular season losses has done great work. To do so with a team that had no winning experience from last season speaks volumes about Hamlet’s coaching job in 2010-11. Honorable mention: Jerry Houston, Jr., Pearl River. He struck with pressure at the perfect time. Although Peekskill new it was coming, Houston Jr.’s zone press completely swung the momentum in his favor. He also changed course during the game. After imploring his team to control the tempo, Houston Jr. thought their offense was too slow, too stagnant. So he reminded the players to push harder for easy baskets. The combined result of the two strategies? A 22-3 fourth quarter.
BEST QUOTE: P.J. Torres, New Rochelle — “I think they’re just like North Rockland. I think North Rockland had a great record, but I think it’s because they didn’t play anybody. I think Poughkeepsie’s the same way. I think we played a crazy schedule to get ready for these games and get ready for the playoffs, so I think we’re ready for anybody.” Honorable mention: Eddie Ritch, Dobbs Ferry, on losing at home, one game short of the County Center. “That feeling last year, I still remember it. The seniors were crying. It was the worst feeling. We had that in the back of our heads the entire time.”
BEST FINISH: Irvington-Briarcliff — No question. Game-winners don’t come around often in the playoffs, and certainly not like Chris Brennan’s 3-point play with 7.4 seconds left. Wow. Honorable mention: Byram Hills-Pelham. Intense to the final shot.
BEST CROWD: Pearl River — Every coach and official I spoke to who made the trek from Westchester as a fan were floored by the environment at Pearl River. Spectators were so close to the floor, me and a few others had to back up when teams took the ball out underneath one basket. One coach told me: “I wish my kids had an opportunity to play there just for the experience.” Honorable mention: Pelham. I heard the atmosphere was wild for the Pelicans Class A quarterfinal. If Henson’s shot fell at the buzzer, the place would have exploded.
UNSUNG HERO: Frankie Kelly, Kennedy — Yes, Kelly’s praise has been sung plenty this season, but the Kennedy senior was forced to really gut through his team’s quarterfinal. He wore a mask on his face after breaking two teeth last Friday against Lakeland and, according to his dad and coach, is scheduled to have a root canal today. I’ve had one. They are not comfortable. Also, it usually requires multiple steps, so Kelly certainly won’t feel 100 percent in time for Wednesday’s quarterfinal vs. Byram Hills. Honorable mention: John Donovan, Pearl River. The senior big man challenged — and succeeded — Peekskill inside despite being at a major size disadvantage. Donovan is the Pirates’ Dennis Rodman, always getting a hand on loose basketballs and chasing rebounds. He drew three charges, scored 12 points and grabbed seven rebounds.
BIGGEST SHOT/PLAY: Brennan, Irvington — No question, for all the reasons stated already. Honorable mention: David Muoser to Eddie Fanning, Dobbs Ferry. With the Eagles desperate and fearing a collapse, Muoser found Fanning cutting along the right baseline for a layup that released plenty of tension for Dobbs and helped seal its first trip to the County Center since 2000.
BIGGEST UPSET: Keio over Hamilton — Even with Keio at home, and even with Hastings having topped Blind Brook, this is still a nose more impressive. Why? Because Keio went 1-17 last season. And because Keio had put together a nice season but hadn’t defeated any teams of great significance, including two losses to Hamilton by comfortable margins. So, no, I didn’t expect Keio to win at all and don’t know many who did. That is the very definition of an upset. Honorable mention: Hastings over Blind Brook. Good bye 15-game winning streak. ‘Nuff said.
WISE BEYOND THEIR YEARS: Jeff Lynch and Ryan Golden, Byram Hills — The two sophomores were terrific in Byram’s 46-45 victory over Pelham. They combined for 35 of their team’s points and made key plays down the stretch. A key reason why the Bobcats are headed to the County Center is the play of their underclassmen, never more so than Tuesday night in the team’s biggest game to date. Honorable mention: Huegel, Briarcliff. Although his team lost, Huegel’s two free throws with the game and the season on the line are nothing to sniff at. He should be a prime scorer for the Bears for years to come.