So the four Section 1 schools went 3-1 in the regionals. Not bad for a section that sent just one team to the final four last season. Now, Mount Vernon, Byram Hills, Tuckahoe and Biondi sit one step from Glens Falls. Here are a few leftover thoughts to help set up this weekend’s games:
MOUNT VERNON — It’s tough to judge whether the Knights are rounding into form or have simply been buoyed by playing great competition. In truth, it’s probably both. But Jamell Walker, Damani Ashton and Randy Stephens are all playing very well. Khalid Samuels and Horace Copeland delivered some of their best work of the season Tuesday. Josh Doughty has developed into a solid backup point guard capable of providing a spark.
If you’ve seen Mount Vernon a lot, as I have, you know Bob Cimmino plays 11 or 12 players and the team sometimes lacks a concrete rotation. But that rotation looks to have some defined roles now. Ashton provides additional scoring in the starting lineup, for example. Or Doughty runs the team with Samuels on the bench. Isaiah Cousins remains on the wing, but Cimmino used him as the chameleon on Tuesday, shifting a player who is essentially a former point guard into the backcourt with Jabarie Hinds and Samuels to beat a press. That’s like playing three points at once.
I also see Stephens as the glue to the second unit. Do I think he could start? If you’ve read what I’ve said the last two months about the Ossining transfer, you know the answer. But he’s so long and versatile, the Knights can deploy him in a number of roles.
All in all, both against Poughkeepsie and Newburgh — a team the Knights wanted to earn revenge against, as you can read in this excellent column by Rick Carpiniello — I thought Mount Vernon simply had more answers to whatever questions the game situation posed. Cimmino felt his team really come together on Sunday, as I wrote in yesterday’s game story. Hinds (No. 55 in white) didn’t care that he missed out on the MVP. Samuels (No. 55) didn’t care that it was Doughty on the floor in crunch time. And if you think that’s just lip service, they proved it against Newburgh by outplaying NFA’s backcourt duo of Jarrod Scurlock and Will Williams, perhaps the strongest part of the team.
Last thing: Because I know many asked and I haven’t written it yet, Newburgh coach Frank Dinnocenzio said Williams, the team’s leading scorer at 14.6 PPG, was benched the first quarter because of “team policy issues.” Williams played the last three quarters and scored just four points.
BYRAM HILLS — I know the Bobcats haven’t played yet, but a quick thought: I agree with whoever said they lost a bit of homecourt advantage with the site change. Yes, it sounds like the Section 1 basketball committee were in a tough spot. Westchester Community College is about the size of a high school gym. And Pace, Iona, the County Center and Marist were either uninterested or unavailable. I get that. But there’s no denying that moving the game an hour or so away alters what is intended to be an advantageous environment for the Section 1 entrant.
I don’t think it will matter. Mount Saint Mary’s has a capacity of 1,500, but, like Yorktown High School, it’s the type of place you and I could argue Kobe vs. LeBron (I got LeBron) and rattle a free throw shooter. Sound reverberates there and bounces around the rafters. It will be loud no matter how many show up in Newburgh tomorrow, so I think Byram Hills will bring the noise regardless of the site.
ALBERTUS MAGNUS — Some of our bloggers will feel no pity for Albertus, but I do. The Falcons shot the ball brilliantly throughout the first half on Tuesday. Jack Sullivan, Pat McGuinness and Arnelle Dandridge were all hitting from the outside, and Tyler Sayre and Kyle Sullivan were fairing well in the paint. Even Marcus Almador thrived off the bench. Albertus was humming. In Mike Dougherty’s story yesterday, McGuinness said it was the best half his team played all season. Still, the team led by what, one point at half?
That had to be frustrating. But that’s simply the level of opponent it faced. Burke is good. Real good. And the Section 9 champ proved it in the second half. Once the Falcons went cold, they were in jeopardy.
Albertus didn’t wilt though. After it fell behind by double digits, the younger Sullivan knocked down a 3 to cut it to 66-59 with under three minutes to play. McGuinness had a drive to the hoop that would’ve trimmed the deficit to four later but he was called for a player control foul despite an apparent lack of contact. The defender never hit the floor, but it didn’t matter. The foul was called and the game was essentially over.
I don’t think the Falcons would’ve won anyway. They spent so much energy just getting to that point and looked exhausted trying to chase and bang with Burke. Next year could be their year though. The only starter who graduates is Kyle Sullivan. They will miss his strength and toughness, but the senior class led by McGuinness and Sayre will be back to defend the Section 1 title and maybe even have another try at Burke.
TUCKAHOE — What a performance by Tuckahoe last night in Newburgh. The Tigers left Pine Plains coach Brandon LoBrutto beside himself on the sideline. After Jason Feuer hit a 3 in the fourth quarter to continue Tuckahoe’s unconscious night, LoBrutto looked toward the scorer’s table and yelled, “Do they ever miss!?”
Not last night. Sky Williams was brilliant with 32 relentless points, but he had plenty of help. That’s pretty obvious in a 91-64 victory. In addition to Williams, Justin Nolan, Feuer and Kevin Garabitos each accepted a chance to carry the scoring load, but that’s why Tuckahoe is a strong contender to play deep into March. It just has so many options.
Look at it this way: Do you think Pine Plains, with a 6-8, 6-7, 6-5 front line, had any interest in running up and down the floor? No, but there it was doing exactly that. What left LoBrutto so frustraed was that his team played well. It just couldn’t keep up.
“That’s the best team we’ve faced all season,” he told me afterward.
The scary part is that Al Visconti believes his team is just coming together, as he told me for today’s story. Remember: Seven of his players were on the state championship football team, meaning the Tigers were well behind the competition once the season began. Visconti believes some of them have only recently entered midseason form and credits them for pushing Tuckahoe to another level.
BIONDI — This is the only regional I didn’t see, but I gather the formula for victory was simple. Rebound, rebound, rebound.
I can’t stress enough how Biondi’s combination of size to go with the speed and skill of Dayvon Felder, Steven Morales and co. makes it a state title contender. In Tuesday’s victory against overmatched Ross, Lance McDowdell, Elijah McCants and Hakeem Barnes combined for 37 points and 39 rebounds, a gaudy total for any front line.
“That helps us in a great way,” coach Steve Hodge said in the game story written by my colleague Vince Mercogliano. “Our big guys pound the boards, which creates more offensive opportunities. They’ve been doing a great job all year.”
I’ll be up in Cortland on Saturday and won’t have a chance to see Biondi — or Tuckahoe again for that matter. But I have a sneaking suspicion I’ll see both up in Glens Falls based on what we saw already this week.