It’s late and I’m hope to arrive at the County Center about eight hours from now so I can actually get in the building. Before I write “let’s get to it,” take a second to vote on our new poll: “Who will win the Class AA championship?” Your choices: No. 1 Poughkeepsie or No. 2 Mount Vernon. Vote now!
OK, now it’s time — let’s get to it…
CLASS C CHAMPIONSHIP
— Tuckahoe 69, Haldane 59
Section 1 titles: 16th (1933-34, 1965, 1972, 1974-75, 1978, 1981-82, 1993-95, 2003, 2006, 2008, 2011)
Up next: S.S. Seward or Pine Plains (Section 9), Wed., 7:30 p.m., at SUNY New Paltz
MVP: Sky Williams, Tuckahoe
All-tournament: Alex Melendez, Tuckahoe; Jackson Zuvic and Elias Lopez, Haldane; Corey Blair, Lincoln Hall; Kato Takayasu, Keio.
We’ll never know how the game would have unfolded without the early foul trouble that crippled Haldane. If you’re Tuckahoe, you probably don’t care to find out, not after winning the program’s second championship in four seasons. Even that doesn’t quite tell the story for the Tigers, who went just 3-16 a season ago. Al Visconti joked to me after the game that he all of a sudden got a lot smarter in the eight months since the end of last season and the beginning of this one. But, in truth, the reason his players stuck to his game plan, drew fouls and delivered in the clutch are the same reasons Visconti looks so smart now: They are a year older, a year more mature and understand how to win.
When I talked to Visconti, he credited the players for learning what it takes during the football season. Seven of them were Class D state champs back into November, so when they shifted over to the basketball court a couple days later, losing just didn’t take all of a sudden.
On Saturday, the key cogs were senior Alex Melendez (pictured left “feelin’ it”) and junior Sky Williams. Melendez made six 3’s, scoring 18 points in the first half and finished with 23 for the game. He told me he dreamed about a game like this all week, but who knew? We all rain 3’s in front of an adoring crowd in our imaginations. Melendez actually did it.
He led Tuckahoe to a 40-20 lead at halftime. In spite of all the 3’s, Melendez biggest first-half contribution may be when he drew charge less than three minutes into the game that was the second foul on Jackson Zuvic. It worked perfectly into Tuckahoe’s plan and defied that of Haldane. Visconti preached a desire to force Zuvic to the bench because his team simply couldn’t match up with the versatile big man otherwise. Conversely, Blue Devils coach Joe Virgadamo told me foul trouble was the one thing his team simply couldn’t afford. Well, not only was Zuvic whistled for two long before the end of the first quarter, so was 6-6 Will Hoffman.
Ultimately, the foul trouble left Haldane cooked. Zuvic (27 points, 13 boards, five blocks) valiantly led a comeback, and even cut the deficit to seven, 52-45, before he fouled out to end a storied career. But Tuckahoe had two resounding answers all game. Not only was Williams relentless en route to his 32-point, MVP effort, the role players around him chipped in throughout the afternoon. Ryan Mitchell and Kevin Garabitos used their length and athleticism to pressure the Blue Devils. Melendez drew three charges. Justin Nolan crashed the glass. Jason Feuer made dribbling a nightmare.
When you look back, more minutes from Zuvic and Hoffman would’ve been a difference, yes. Same goes for starting forward Paul Mackey, who hit a 3-pointer early in the second quarter but suffered an injury on the play and did not return. But it’s clear Tuckahoe’s pressure and depth could’ve been too much regardless. We’ll never know, but the Tigers don’t need to.
CLASS B CHAMPIONSHIP
— Albertus Magnus 53, Dobbs Ferry 46
Champ: Albertus Magnus
Section 1 titles: 3rd (1993-94, 2011)
Up next: Burke Catholic (Section 9), Tues., 8 p.m., at the County Center
MVP: Tyler Sayre, Albertus Magnus
All-tournament: Pat McGuinness, Albertus Magnus; John Yozzo-Scaperrotta and Thomas Fleming, Dobbs Ferry; Chris Brennan, Irvington; Ali Marpet, Hastings.
You can’t mistake this: Dobbs Ferry was not intimidated. Instead, in Saturday night’s championship game, the Eagles played the role of intimidator against pre-tournament favorite Albertus Magnus and it worked perfectly. To a point.
With its defense sound and its physicality setting the tone, Dobbs started strong, leading early in the first quarter right down to halftime. A major key was David Muoser’s defense on Pat McGuinness, who never seemed to have the ball much in the first half. It shouldn’t be surprising that Albertus coach Pat McFadden said his team never found any offensive rhythm all game. If it weren’t for Tyler Sayre, that would’ve been a problem, but Sayre accounted for what the Falcons didn’t have by providing them with one of the best games of his career.
It wasn’t just McGuinness who was bottled up. Albertus is a team capable of hitting a dozen 3’s in a given game. Yesterday? Zero. Not one. Sophomore Jack Sullivan and junior Arnelle Dandridge went 3-less, robbing the Falcons of one of their biggest offensive weapons. Luckily for them, Sayre — when he wasn’t in foul trouble — held an edge in and around the paint all game. His length was a plus, allowing him to score many of his 22 points, grab many of his nine boards and block most of his four shots.
With Dandridge and McGuinness heating up and Dobbs’ aggressiveness drawing it into serious foul trouble, Albertus took control. Sayre scored a hoop with 1:25 left in the third that put the Falcons on top for good, but it wasn’t until the 2:17 mark of the fourth where the Eagles finally cracked.
McFadden had preached to his players in the huddle to keep their composure. They did, and Dobbs finally came unglued when John Yozzo-Scaperrotta was called for a technical after a hard foul on McGuinness from behind. It led to four free throws before the Falcons ever even inbounded the ball again. Those four points served to rev up some pretty formidable momentum Albertus had built already. The lead swelled to 10, and a late comeback led by Thomas Fleming and Eddie Ritch wasn’t quite enough.
I talked to Yozzo-Scaperrotta afterward and he was contrite. He embraced Sayre in the handshake line after the game for his play and later showed remorse.
“I lost composure a little bit,” Yozzo-Scaperrotta said. “I like to think of myself as a leader on the team but when I lost composure it went down hill from there.”
Albertus’ ability to withstand the pressure Dobbs brought was what propelled it to victory. It probably wasn’t always easy, but the Falcons slowly took control of the game and did it their way.
“They wanted to talk to us and try to get us out of our game, but I feel like we did that to them,” Sayre said. “They were frustrated. They were fighting in the huddle. We felt like if we played our game that we’d be fine in the end.”
No rest for the weary. Of all the Section 1 winners, Albertus will face the most challenging first-round state playoff opponent of all — and by a wide margin. Just consider that the Middletown Times Herald-Record ranks Burke Catholic as its No. 1 team, ahead of Newburgh, the team the Mount Vernon-Poughkeepsie winner must face.