Here is my story from the Class C semifinal game between Palisade Prep and Haldane.
WHITE PLAINS Two years can make a world of difference.
In 2011, Palisade Prep was a young and inexperienced team playing at the Westchester County Center in its first season of existence as a boys basketball program, losing to Greenburgh Academy.
On Monday night, the No. 2-seeded Phoenix showed how far they have come, defeating No. 6 Haldane 66-46 in the Class C semifinals at the County Center.
“We wanted to bring home respect to the city of Yonkers,” said Palisade Prep coach Sean Stahn. “We wanted to show where we’ve come from. We struggled a couple years ago and we’ve come a long way, and we wanted to prove to everybody the hard work these kids have put in.”
The Phoenix will face the winner between No. 1 Children’s Village (19-1) and No. 5 Tuckahoe (6-14) at 2 p.m. Saturday at the County Center.
The Phoenix (17-3) have grown a lot since that 49-37 loss to Greenburgh in the Class D semifinals two years ago. The biggest difference has been how they play as a whole, not as individuals.
“It’s chemistry,” said Palisade forward and senior captain Fred Truss Jr. (pictured below, left), who finished with 13 points and 11 rebounds, of the difference in this year’s squad from 2011. “It’s working hard over the summer and just being together as one.”
It wasn’t a great start for the Phoenix, who are used to taking early leads this season. In fact, Palisade trailed 1-0 before the game even started. Isaiah Ward (pictured above, right) was assessed a technical foul for dunking in warm ups, allowing Haldane’s (6-14) Peter Hoffman (10 points) to hit 1 of 2 free throws before a second had ticked off the clock.
It would take a quarter, but Ward would redeem himself. The junior scored seven points in the first two minutes of the second as he helped the Phoenix take a 30-21 lead into halftime.
The Phoenix built their lead as high as 20 before plateauing early in the fourth quarter. Stahn was happy to see his team did not let up.
“We had a couple times this year with some of the tougher teams in our league where we let them stick around and we didn’t put them away early,” Stahn said. “It was tough for us to really have that mentality to put a team away. So I was happy to see them do that today.”
Stahn credits his team’s work in the paint, Palisade outrebounded Haldane 32-22, to maintaining their lead.
“Sometimes we do get lackadaisical when we face weaker teams, but we try and depend on our athleticism and sometimes that doesn’t work,” Truss said. “When we execute and work as a team it really helps us.”
Photos courtesy of Seth Harrison/The Journal News. For the entire gallery click here.