Keys to victory. It sounds cliche, but ever game has them. In an effort to provide you the most comprehensive coverage for this week, I’ve compiled what each team needs to do if they hope to advance to the final of their respective classes.
Class D —
No. 1 Biondi vs. No. 3 Greenburgh, 3 p.m.
For Biondi to win: Open the floodgates. Biondi needs to get Greenburgh out of their comfort zone early. Greenburgh comes into the playoffs with momentum, as they’ve strung some wins together to close out their season. If the game stays close, anything could happen down the stretch. But a nail in the coffin early will end any chances of an upset.
For Greenburgh to win: Keep it close early. Biondi will have no lack of motivation entering this game considering they had the gold ball stripped from them last year and handed to Biondi. If Greenburgh can withstand any early runs from the Lions, and stay within five points of them at half, they could be in good shape.
No. 1 Martin Luther King vs. No. 4 Clark Academy, 4:45 p.m,
For Martin Luther King to win: Stay focused. It would be easy for Martin Luther King to overlook a 2-16 Clark team they’ve already handled during the regular season. Going into a game with that type of mindset is how upsets are born. Martin Luther King needs to take one game at a time and not take anyone for granted.
For Clark Academy to win: Execute the fundamentals. With such a young team it’s easy to see how playing on a big stage could unnerve Clark. For the Knights to come away with a win, they will need to do all the little things first and foremost. Take care of the small things and go from there Shooting well from the free-throw line, hitting easy put-backs and limiting their turnovers are all things Clark needs to to well. If they can take care of the fundamentals then they can worry about the bigger picture.
Class C —
No. 2 Palisade Prep vs. No. 6 Haldane, 6:30 p.m.
For Palisade Prep to win: Supercharged offense. The Phoenix need to use all those guards to their advantage. Push the ball up court and get as many possessions as they can. Palisade Prep hasn’t been shy about shooting the ball all year, and there is no way they should start being timid now.
For Haldane to win: Size matters. The Blue Devils have been bruised and battered all year playing schools in higher classes with bigger front courts. Finally Haldane’s big men will hold the advantage. The Blue Devils will need to dominate the paint and the boards against the undersized Phoenix.
No. 1 Children’s Village vs. No. 5 Tuckahoe, 8:15 p.m.
For Children’s Village to win: Bigger than you are. It sounds silly telling a team with one player over 6-foot to “play big”, but the Hawks have to. Keeping their hands up on defense, boxing out and sliding to help on defense are all things Children’s Village need to do to keep up with a bigger Tuckahoe team.
For Tuckahoe to win: Star power. The stars need to shine for the Tigers. Not only are Shyheim Nixon and Kayvon Reid two of the more talented players in Class C, they also helped Tuckahoe to a state championship last season. Big-game experience can’t be overlooked.
No. 4 Dobbs Ferry vs. No. 9 North Salem, 3 p.m.
For Dobbs Ferry to win: Crash the boards. The Tigers have dominated the glass against their opponents over the past two games, thanks in large part to Umar Singh, who is averaging 19 rebounds a game in the playoffs. All those extra possessions add up quickly. Eric Paschall will need to spend some more time in the paint to help his front court win the battle of the boards. The Tigers have no problem scoring, so the more you can keep the ball out of their hands the better.
For North Salem to win: Control Paschall. It’s not rocket science: Limiting Paschall hurts the Eagles chances of winning. The key isn’t just to stop him from scoring though. Paschall has showed that he is willing and able to create for his teammates, who are happy to finish for him. If North Salem can keep Paschall under 20 points, while still giving proper attention to the rest of the Eagles, they should be in good shape.
No. Putnam Valley vs. No. 3 Lourdes, 4:45 p.m.
For Putnam Valley to win: Speed kills. Lourdes has an eight-man roster. The Tigers best bet is to expose that by getting the ball up and down the big County Center court at all times. Putnam Valley has four playmakers who have taken on the scoring load at different points in the season. This should allow them to sub often, keeping guys fresh. The Tigers can’t be afraid to go hard to the basket either. Any type of foul trouble will expose Lourdes even more.
For Lourdes to win: Keep ‘em cool. Putnam Valley has been known to have guys get hot. Lately Ryan Basso has be their go-to guy, however, Jelanie Bell-Isaac, Andres Soto (pictured above, right) and Zach Coleman have all had big games. The Warriors need to keep an eye out for anyone picking up steam and stop it quickly.
Class A —
No. 2 Eastchester vs. No. 3 Poughkeepsie, 6:30 p.m.
For Eastchester to win: Stay within range. In their first trip to the County Center since 1974, the Eagles need to stay cool under pressure and get to the fourth quarter. If Eastchester is within single digits of the Pioneers by the fourth I think they’ll be in good shape. In Poughkeepsie’s two losses (Peekskill and Kingston) it was poor free-throw shooting that cost the Pioneers. If this game needs to be won or lost at the charity stripe Poughkeepsie could be in trouble.
For Poughkeepsie to win: Take care of business early. The best thing the Pioneers could due to this young and inexperienced Eagles team is jump out to an early lead. The last thing Eastchester wants to do is play from behind against a deep and talented Poughkeepsie squad. With so much experience on the big stage, the Pioneers shouldn’t have any nerves. Use that to their advantage early by taking a commanding lead to leave no doubt who the favorite is.
No. 1 Byram Hills vs. No. 5 Peekskill, 8:15 p.m.
For Byram Hills to win: Run ‘n gun. Byram Hills is no stranger to the big court, having played games at Pace University and Manhattan College. In both games the Bobcats excelled using the entire court. With so many talented players in their backcourt, Byram would be better off keeping the game a fast pace. This serves two purposes: 1. That gets the Peekskill big men running up and down the court, wearing them out. 2. A quicker pace might get the Red Devils into a frantic mode and cause them to start taking bad shots, something they have been subject to in the past.
For Peekskill to win: Control the paint. Outside of 6-foot-7 Andrew Groll, the Bobcats are an undersized team. Red Devil big men Laron Holt (pictured below, left) (6-foot-6) and Musheed Muhammad (6-foot-6) can exploit this by taking over the paint. A steady presence down low will also keep Peekskill’s shooting under control. Something that can tend to run wild at times.
No. 5 Mahopac vs. No. 9 New Rochelle, 5 p.m.
For Mahopac to win: Become ball hawks. As athletic as New Rochelle is, the Huguenots have still been victim to turnovers at times. With a game that seems destined to come down to the wire, any and all possessions will be huge. The more turnovers the Indians can cause the better.
For New Rochelle to win: Attack the back. With the strength of the team coming from the front court, the Huguenots will need to attack Mahopac’s guards. With the added pressure on the back court, Brendan Hynes will be forced to handle the ball even more than he already does. The additional load might tire out the Indians’ star.
No. 2 North Rockland vs. No. 3 Mount Vernon, 6:45 p.m.
For North Rockland to win: Slow and steady wins the race. Here is a situation for you: Tiger Woods offers to pay you $1,000 if you can beat him. You have two options: 1. Play one hole. 2. Play 18 holes. As much fun as I assume it would be to spend five hours on a golf course with Mr. Woods, no one in their right mind would chose option two. Anything can happen playing one hole. Same goes for the Red Raiders. North Rockland needs to drastically cut down Mount Vernon possessions by slowing the pace of the game. If this turns into a shootout North Rockland doesn’t stand a chance.
For Mount Vernon to win: Play your game. When I talked to Mount Vernon coach Bob Cimmino after their first-round win against White Plains, he said going forward the Knights would just worry about being the best team Mount Vernon could be. If the Knights play their best basketball, they don’t need to worry about the competition.