Here’s my game story on Peekskill regaining its swagger in a tough environment to win:
BARDONIA — Nearly four years have passed since Peekskill hoisted the gold ball at the County Center. The drought would be well within the grace period for most programs, but it feels like an eternity to Lou Panzanaro.
The name across the chest just hasn’t been the same source for intimidation.
“I think over the last few years, we’ve lost some of that identity of what the Peekskill tradition is, of being able to go anywhere and play tough,” the New York State Hall of Fame coach said. “We’ve been trying to stress that.”
On Tuesday night, the fifth-seeded Red Devils showed that character, rallying from a double-digit deficit in a loud, steamy environment to beat No. 4 Albertus Magnus 72-67 in the Class A quarterfinals and clinch another berth in the County Center.
Peekskill will play top-seeded Byram Hills at 8:15 on Feb. 27 in the semifinals.
“We came in here humble and focused,” said junior guard Jay Cabell, who finished with a team-high 15 points and grabbed five rebounds. “Coach told us this was going to be a loud gym. We just wanted to come in here focused on getting the ‘W’.”
The Red Devils had their poise tested. Albertus exposed their zone to the tune of eight first-half 3-pointers even with star Jack Sullivan misfiring from the field. But Peekskill managed to trim a 10-point deficit to three at the break, ditching its love affair with the jump shot and attacking more inside with 6-foot-6 Laron Holt and Musheed Muhammad.
Holt finally tied the score 54-54 on a putback with 6:09 to play. Seconds later, senior Ramon Searight put the Red Devils up for the first time since the first quarter.
Despite a tense finish, Peekskill never trailed again. Holt finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds and Muhammad added nine points and 10 boards. Josh Oliver contributed 11 points off the bench, including three 3s.
The Red Devils also succeeded by scrapping their zone for an extended man-to-man.
“They weren’t running and coming as hard as they did in the first half,” Holt said. “As long as we ran the ball, the more they got tired.”
Albertus only played six players significant minutes and tired in the fourth quarter. The tipping point came when Sullivan limped off with cramps down 58-54 with 4:19 to play.
“We were gassed. We used a couple of timeouts just to rest,” coach Pat McFadden said. “I think we were tired with the pace of the game. We have to play at a high level, and I think we just wore down a little bit.”
Senior Brian McFadden had 15 points, including four of those first-half 3s. Sullivan, who returned from cramping, finished with 24 points, six rebounds and eight assists on 8-of-25 shooting.