Thanks to the good folks at Rye, I was able to attend two of today’s 11 outbracket games. You can find the score to all 11 and recaps from the other games here.
Here are my extended recaps from Kennedy-Greeley and Rye-Sleepy Hollow:
KENNEDY 64, HORACE GREELEY 44
Harrison Brown entered Wednesday eight points shy of 1,000 and played like a someone in pursuit of a milestone. Kennedy seemed more than willing the cede the moment to the Horace Greeley star, but the Gaels played with renewed intensity after Brown reached the mark. They quickly turned a 30-28 deficit late in the second quarter into a 20-point victory and advanced to meet No. 1 Spring Valley on Friday at 6.
“Playing against a team like that with a player like Harrison Brown, it’s not easy, but we turned it on defensively,” Kennedy coach Al Morales said. “We’re not big, but our defense was definitely able to dictate our offense. That’s the bottom line.”
The main benefactor was Dan Cruz, an undersized guard who nonetheless bullied his way to 14 of his team-high 19 points during a strong third quarter. Dominick Cristiano added 10 points, all in the first half, but it was Kennedy’s defense that spurred the rally. It held Greeley scoreless the first 4:30 of the second half and just five points in the entire third quarter.
Morales designed the defense to sink in once Brown put the ball on the floor. It was effectively, forcing Greeley into turnovers that prevented it from building any rhythm.
“You have to recognize who the best player on the floor is. It’s that simple,” Morales said. “It can’t be one on one action because we don’t have anyone who can guard him down low. With everyone helping and synching and sagging, that’s what did it for us.”
The Gaels have now won seven games since the start of 2013, a vast improvement that coincided with the return of point guard Chris Gillen from injury. But they must now play on the road at 16-2 Spring Valley.
“Right now we’re playing an extended season,” Morales said. “We’re happy to be in it. We’ll take advantage of it. We’re not going to die. We’ll go in Friday and see how it goes.”
Brown and his teammates had hoped to have that chance and they appeared well on their way early. Brown scored 10 of his 20 points in the first quarter, including a layup off a spin move that netted his 1,000th career point.
He said the team was aggressive in his pursuit of the milestone. The Quakers scheduled a game on Tuesday against Newburgh – a non-league game that didn’t count toward its seeding – to help Brown achieve the milestone. They lost, but he scored 27 points and helped keep it competitive. On Wednesday, his teammates fed him early and often.
“Guys knew I needed 1,000,” Brown said. “Only three kids have gotten it at Greeley and I wanted to be one of them. I knew I had to go for it.”
The game was the last for Brown and fellow seniors Matt Xie and Teddy Graves, all of who joined the team as freshmen. Xie was injured and did not dress. Graves finished with four points.
RYE 64, SLEEPY HOLLOW 49
Max Twyman said there was no special urgency, no special edict from coach John Aguilar to get him the ball. It just happened that not only did the Rye senior find himself in position to score, his shot fell even better than normal.
“I was just playing in the flow of the game and my teammates fed me,” Twyman said. “I wasn’t trying to put shots up and get it quickly. I just got open looks and luckily they went in.”
Twyman dropped 20 of his 22 points in the first half, including a right corner 3-pointer with 3:56 remaining in the second quarter to surpass 1,000 points for his career. He finished the game with 12 rebounds and five assists and shot 7 of 14 from the field.
“It’s been in the back of my mind,” Twyman said. “My main goal is to get to the County Center and get as many wins as possible, but this isn’t bad either.”
With the one goal achieved, Twyman and his teammates will have to win at No. 2 Eastchester at 7 Friday night to sustain their goal of advancing to the final four. Aguilar said his team played one of its best games on Wednesday. Mike O’Neill and Drew Abate each chipped in 14 points with O’Neill hitting three 3s and Abate grabbing six rebounds.
Rye struggled early, falling behind 12-4, but Twyman helped the Garnets build a seven-point halftime lead. Their defense then limited Sleepy Hollow to 13 points in the second half before the starters went to the bench.
“Our defensive intensity picked up,” Twyman said. “We came out really tight. For a lot of these kids, it’s their first playoff game. We just needed to relax.”
Big man Manny Velazquez led Sleepy with 13 points. Joey Good chipped in nine, going 9 for 10 from the foul line.
Rye will face a step up in competition. Despite knowing Eastchester is the favorite, the Garnets feel comfortable after scrimmaging the Eagles earlier this season.
“We did really well,” Twyman said. “We definitely think we can beat them. We’re very confident. We’re looking forward to it.”