Here’s our Championship Week forecast, including a closer look at all 20 semifinalists and a few prognostications for all five classes in competition this week at the County Center:
2012 champ: Mount Vernon. The Knights won their record seventh straight gold ball in 2012.
Favorite: Mount Vernon. The defending champ struggled early vs. Fox Lane in the quarterfinals but remains unbeaten in Section 1 play.
Dark horse: North Rockland. The Red Raiders might have the size and depth to challenge the Knights.
Game to watch: Mahopac vs. New Rochelle, semifinals. With football stars populating both lineups, this will be one of the most physical games of the year.
Championship pick: Mount Vernon over Mahopac. The defensive pressure will be too much for the Indians in this championship rematch.
MVP: Josh Doughty, Mount Vernon
Team profiles —
No. 2 North Rockland (18-2)
Coach: Chris Roff
Key players: Elijah Tillman (6-6), Sr., C; Alex Ramirez (5-9), Sr., G; Jamell Lockhart (6-2), Sr., G.
X-factor: Tillman, Omar Idolar and Roger Harris. The three big men are impressive specimens. At their best, they can combine to dominate a game.
No. 3 Mount Vernon (18-1)
Coach: Bob Cimmino
Key players: Brandon Martin (6-3), Jr., F; Josh Doughty (5-11), Sr., G; Jamal Lewis (6-1), Sr., G.
X-factor: Jalen David. The senior swingman is fickle, but he has the talent and the skill to lead the Knights offensively. In fact, that could be when they are at their best.
No. 5 Mahopac (17-3)
Coach: Kevin Downes
Key players: Brendan Hynes (6-3), Sr., G/F; Mike Simone (6-4), Sr., F; Ryan Simone (6-4), Jr., F.
X-factor: Guard play. The Indians boast a terrific inside game that has them on a 15-game winning streak. If guards Anthony Lenahan, Dan Tully and John Delahanty protect the ball, they will be a tough out.
No. 9 New Rochelle (11-9)
Coach: Rasaun Young
Key players: Joe Clarke (6-3), Sr., F; Khalil Edney (6-4), Sr., F; Derek Dorn (6-0), Jr., G.
X-factor: Edney. Like Clarke and fellow senior Terrence Holden, Edney is a state champion. The quarterback has been a spark off the bench for the Huguenots. That must continue if they hope to advance.
2012 champ: Tappan Zee. The then-unbeaten Dutchmen beat Poughkeepsie en route to the program’s first appearance in a state final.
Favorite: Poughkeepsie. The Pioneers return all but two players from last year’s team and have won 17 of 18 coming in.
Dark horse: Eastchester. The Eagles haven’t appeared in the County Center since 1974 but their athleticism and outside shooting are upset-worthy.
Game to watch: Byram Hills vs. Poughkeepsie, championship. If it happens, contrasting styles and an abundance of playoff experience could lead to an epic final.
Championship pick: Poughkeepsie over Byram. The Pioneers are too deep and balanced. They can dictate the action.
MVP: Jermar Dancy, Poughkeepsie
Team profiles —
No. 1 Byram Hills (18-1)
Coach: Ted Repa
Key players: Jeff Lynch (5-11), Sr., G; Ryan Golden (6-1), Sr., F; Brian Skelly (5-11), Sr., G; Andrew Groll (6-7), So., C.
X-factor: Staying on the floor. The Bobcats rely on their four stars to carry them. They need to avoid foul trouble and injuries to win a second gold ball in three years.
No. 2 Eastchester (19-1)
Coach: Fred DiCarlo
Key players: Jack Daly (6-2), Jr., G; Nick Campana (6-0), Jr., G; Kevin Teahan (6-0), Sr., G; Mike Milo (6-2), Jr., F.
X-factor: Inexperience. This is the team’s first trip to the County Center since 1974. The Eagles can’t afford stage freight in the semifinals against an experienced Poughkeepsie team.
No. 3 Poughkeepsie (17-2)
Coach: Brian Laffin
Key players: Jermar Dancy (6-0), Sr., G; Devin Lawrence (6-3), Sr., F; Jahleel Carter (5-10), Sr., G.
X-factor: Free-throw shooting. The Pioneers are almost impossible to stop unless they are stopping themselves. The main culprit this season has been spotty free-throw shooting, which could prove costly in a close game.
No. 5 Peekskill (16-4)
Coach: Lou Panzanaro
Key players: Laron Holt (6-6), Jr., G/F; Musheed Muhammad (6-6), Sr., F; Jay Cabell (6-0), Jr., G.
X-factor: Shot selection. The Red Devils must pound the ball inside, particularly to Muhammad. They can shoot well from deep but are also very streaky. Teams often shoot themselves right into the offseason at the County Center.
2012 champ: Albertus Magnus. The Falcons beat Dobbs Ferry for the second straight time; they have since moved to Class A.
Favorite: None. Dobbs Ferry, Putnam Valley and Lourdes could all stake legitimate claim to this label.
Dark horse: North Salem. The Tigers enter as a live underdog. They are seeded ninth, but have not played like it.
Game to watch: Putnam Valley vs. Lourdes, semifinals. No player on either team has ever played a varsity game at the County Center. Expect the unexpected.
Championship pick: Dobbs Ferry over Lourdes. The best player doesn’t always win, but Dobbs has a major advantage in this tournament.
MVP: Eric Paschall, Dobbs Ferry
Team profiles —
No. 2 Putnam Valley (18-2)
Coach: Ed Wallach
Key players: Jelani Bell-Isaac (6-4), Jr., F; Andres Soto (6-4), Sr., F; Zach Coleman (6-2), Jr., G.
X-factor: Ryan Basso. The sophomore has been hot shooting the ball lately. For a team without County Center experience and with just one senior in the rotation, everyone must contribute.
No. 3 Lourdes (15-5)
Coach: Jim Santoro
Key players: Kyle Santoro (5-10), Jr., G; Mike Donnelly (6-2), Sr., F; Justin Rhynders (6-1), Jr., G/F.
X-factor: Depth. The Warriors have just eight players on the roster, but all eight can play. They’ll have to hope that’s enough on a big court and in a setting where foul trouble can be a factor.
No. 4 Dobbs Ferry (14-6)
Coach: Scott Patrillo
Key players: Eric Paschall (6-6), Jr., G/F; Nick Kost (6-2), Sr., F; Josh Smith (6-2), Sr., F.
X-factor: Ball movement. With Paschall drawing so much attention, teammates are always open. The Eagles just have to be committed to finding them.
No. 9 North Salem (12-8)
Coach: Henry Sassone
Key players: Umar Singh (6-5), Sr., F; James Langelotti (6-1), Sr., G; Joey Tunas (6-3), Sr., G.
X-factor: Tunas’ shooting. If the sharpshooter can open the floor for Singh, opponents are in trouble. The big man has 52 points and 38 rebounds through two playoff games. All he needs is room to operate. Tunas can provide it.
2012 champ: Tuckahoe. The defending state champ finished last season unbeaten.
Favorite: Children’s Village/Palisade Prep. These league foes shared their league title thanks to a regular-season split.
Dark horse: Tuckahoe. From unbeaten to 5-14, but the Tigers played just one game (its quarterfinal win vs. Keio) against Section 1 Class C competition.
Game to watch: Children’s Village vs. Tuckahoe, semifinals. This will be a footrace on hardwood. There are no shots they don’t like.
Championship pick: Tuckahoe over Palisade Prep. The tough schedule against Classes A and B opponents will pay dividends.
MVP: Shyheim Nixon, Tuckahoe
Team profiles —
No. 1 Children’s Village (18-1)
Coach: Michael Graves
Key players: Andrew Jones (5-10), Jr., G; Rafiq Shaheed (5-8), Jr., G; Roger Owens (6-0), Jr., F.
X-factor: Defense. The Hawks can score, but their ability to defend the paint and protect the glass will be key with just one player over 6-foot on the roster.
No. 2 Palisade Prep (16-3)
Coach: Sean Stahn
Key players: Brandon Tate (5-8), Jr., G; Fred Truss Jr. (6-2), Sr., G/F; Kevin Sabino (5-11), Jr., G; Isaiah Ward (6-3), Jr., G/F.
X-factor: Rebounding. The Phoenix are a guard-heavy team. Even Ward, their tallest player, is a swingman. To run effectively, Palisade Prep must do work on the glass.
No. 5 Tucakhoe (5-14)
Coach: Al Visconti
Key players: Shyheim Nixon (5-10), Sr., PG; Kayvon Reid (6-5), Sr., F; Maurice Hollis (5-11), Jr., G.
X-factor: Experience. The Tigers are defending state champions. They not only know how to win, they expect to. Nixon and Reid played key roles on last year’s 25-0 team.
No. 6 Haldane (6-13)
Coach: Joe Virgadamo
Key players: Ryan Dahlia (6-2), Sr., F; Matt Forlow (5-11), Sr., G; Peter Hoffman (6-3), So., G.
X-factor: Toughness. Haldane survived the rigors of a tough schedule against larger schools. The result was a 30-point win over No. 3 Solomon Schechter in the quarterfinals. This is not a typical No. 6 seed.
2012 champ: Greenburgh Academy. Biondi won its fourth straight on the court but lost the title by forfeit afterward when Section 1 ruled it had used an illegal player.
Favorite: Martin Luther King. With Children’s Village’s last-minute shift to the Class C bracket, MLK became the new team to beat.
Dark horse: Biondi. Don’t discount its motivation. The Lions were denied last year’s gold ball but arrive hungry to win another.
Game to watch: MLK vs. Biondi, championship. A rubber match seems inevitable. Biondi won by four at home and MLK by three in its home gym. They will settle it on a neutral court.
Championship pick: MLK over Biondi. The Tigers finally get back on top.
MVP: Rajien Griffin, MLK
Team profiles —
No. 1 Martin Luther King (10-8)
Coach: Scott Green
Key players: Rajien Griffin (6-0), Jr., PG; Peter Hargrove (5-10), Sr., G; Jermaine Shaw (6-4), Sr., F; Dashawn Johnson (6-3), Jr., F.
X-factor: Griffin. The quick, crafty guard gives the Tigers an explosive playmaker and scorer. He averaged a league-best 20.5 points and 6.7 assists per game.
No. 2 Biondi (9-9)
Coach: Bob Delle Bovi
Key players: Derrick Alverez (5-11), Sr., G; Johnnie Gray (6-2), Sr., F; Ronald Garcia (6-3), Jr., F.
X-factor: Hunger. The Lions had their fourth straight gold ball taken away when Section 1 ruled they used an illegal player. They are hungry to make amends.
No. 3 Greenburgh Academy (4-13)
Coach: Jean Marcellus
Key players: Taylor Cummings (6-2), Jr., G; Joshua Pacheco (6-3), Jr., F; David McKenith (6-2), Jr., G; Matt Howard (6-3), Jr., G.
X-factor: Finishing strong. The record is deceiving. Greenbugh played the top three Class C seeds (Children’s Village, Palisade Prep and Solomon Schechter) close. The upset potential is there if the team plays four strong quarters.
No. 4 Clark Academy (2-16)
Coach: Anthony Gaines
Key players: Taiquam Johnson (6-0), Fr., G; Calvin Walters (6-1), Jr., F; Shane McCalla (6-3), Fr., F.
X-factor: Youth. With nine freshmen and a sophomore, youth has been the Knights’ undoing. Johnson leads the team in scoring at 15.0 points per game and McCalla averages 3.0 blocks per game. They’ll need to lead the way for Clark to be able to knock off MLK.