For the opening minutes tonight, New Rochelle looked like a team that intended to forget last week when they lost to Scarsdale and Mount Vernon. The Huguenots jumped ahead 14-2 as White Plains struggled to alleviate their pressure.
A few fouls here, a few missed box outs there, New Ro found itself deep in a fight with a hungry opponent. Yet again, White Plains was competitive against a good team into the final minutes, following a path this team had traveled down so many times before. The end was again a dead one, as the Tigers couldn’t quite cut their deficit enough.
Check out my story on the game below, including the idea that White Plains could actually miss the Class AA playoffs if it doesn’t build some momentum quickly.
Tonight also was another solid game for New Ro forward Khalil Edney, who is now a stalwart on the front line alongside Joe Clarke as a scorer, rebounder and shot blocker.
“I always knew ‘Pop’ had high energy, but I never thought he’d be playing this well for us,” coach Rasaun Young said of Edney. “I thought he’d be a sub who could come in and play defense, change some shots, but he’s played tremendous.”
“He’s a great leader,” Young said. “He’s more of a vocal leader than my point guards.”
NEW ROCHELLE Even in the final few seconds, with the lead basically insurmountable, New Rochelle found itself rolling around on the floor fighting White Plains for a loose ball. The scene was somewhat emblematic of the game itself. Although the Huguenots remained in control — and barely — they were pushed.
Of course, seldom has this season been simple for New Rochelle — not Thursday night’s 54-48 victory over its league rival or the getting-to-know-you period for coach Rasaun Young, whose first year has been everything but dull.
“I know I can’t hit the reset button and I know we’re a program in progress,” said Young, whose team improved to 7-7. “All we have to do is keep getting better. It starts with practice. We need to implement what we’re teaching them in practice in the games.”
That had seemed to work in the first quarter. The Huguenots pressured White Plains into mistakes and raced ahead 14-2, but three fouls sent star Joe Clarke to the bench.
Uninspiring play from the reserves squandered most of that lead. Junior Rexler Noel and senior Devin Thomas combined for 14 first-half points as the Tigers cut their deficit to 29-24 at halftime.
“We started off strong, but we made a couple of substitutions and the guys on the bench didn’t come off ready,” said New Rochelle senior Khalil Edney, whose coach reiterated the point. “That’s when they got back in the game.”
Edney, in his first real season on varsity (he played one game last year), continued to emerge as a stalwart in the starting lineup with 15 points and nine rebounds. Clarke scored a game-high 18, and the duo either maintained possessions or scored key baskets whenever White Plains crept closest.
The Tigers were within three points at one juncture and were down only four late thanks to the shooting of junior Mike DeMello, who finished with 16 points. But they also finished just 12 of 23 from the foul line. Noel missed six of those free throws, although he still had 12 points and eight rebounds.
“The bad start hurt us a lot and we missed a lot of free throws, too,” Noel said. “We’ll go back to practice and fix those things.”
Time seems to be running short for White Plains’ playoff hopes. The Tigers dropped to 2-10 and will likely need to win two more league games to secure a berth in the Class AA tournament.
“We’re just trying to win one game right now with the way we’re going,” coach Spencer Mayfield said. “We need one win to get our confidence back. If we can get in, hopefully we can be somebody’s worst nightmare.”