Just a terrific, much-needed comeback win tonight by New Rochelle, which beat arguably one of the better teams in the state. It’s a game that could turn the Huguenots’ season around. Frankly, after watching them last week against Iona Prep, I wasn’t sure where they were headed. Now, I could see them bringing home the gold ball if they maintain this level of play. (Remember: St. Mary’s is very, very good, with two high-major Division I prospects.)
It shows you how much emotion and desire can carry a team to another level. Joe Clarke guaranteed to me last week that New Ro would turn its season around after a 1-4 start. And did it ever.
Tonight’s results set up one of the best Slam Dunk doubleheaders in recent years on Sunday night. Arguably, the area’s top two girls teams and two of the top five boys programs will square off.
WHITE PLAINS — When New Rochelle coach Rasaun Young announced last week that his team would practice on Christmas Eve, he heard a few groans. They were quickly silenced by senior Terrence Holden.
“We’re 1-4,” Holden said. “Of course we’re having practice.”
“That was our mentality all week,” senior Joe Clarke said. “We didn’t even care if we had to practice on Christmas Day.”
Seeking a spark, the Huguenots found it tonight at the County Center. Clarke, a 6-foot-3 senior, scored 12 points in a frantic final 5:13 to key a 71-64 upset victory over St. Mary’s of Manhasset in the semifinals of the Slam Dunk.
Clarke had guaranteed New Rochelle’s fortunes would change after last Saturday’s overtime loss to rival Iona Prep. He delivered with 29 points and 11 rebounds against one of Long Island’s top teams.
“This is the spark for our season,” Clarke said afterward. “We’re just going to continue to work hard and get wins. We’re on our way.”
The Huguenots (2-4) will continue their quest Sunday at the County Center when they meet 8-1 Stepinac at 7 for the championship. Saturday’s slate was pushed to Sunday because of inclement weather in the forecast.
Their immediate future still looked bleak after a stormy first half ended with St. Mary’s ahead 42-32. But Clarke and a pair of 3-pointers by Antoine Lewis sent New Rochelle on a 16-4 run to start the third quarter. A Khalil Edney basket gave them a 48-46 lead.
The teams traded leads into the fourth quarter. Six-foot-10 sophomore Jessie Govan (24 points, 10 rebounds) and freshman Devonte Green — the younger brother of San Antonio Spurs guard Danny Green — gave the Gaels a 60-56 edge with 4:43 to go. But two baskets by Clarke tied it and Edney put the Huguenots ahead for good on a three-point play with 3:51 remaining. He finished with 14 points and seven rebounds off the bench.
The star quarterback on New Rochelle’s Class AA state champions said his team channeled the intensity it found in last week’s 15-point comeback that sent the Iona Prep game into overtime. They forced St. Mary’s into 22 turnovers.
“We knew we had the potential to play a full game like that,” Edney said. “That was the same intensity we had when we were down 10 at halftime.
“This can definitely turn our season around.”
Photos courtesy of Matthew Brown of The Journal News. Find the complete gallery by clicking here.