WHITE PLAINS — The knock on Byram Hills entering the postseason was that its perfect Section 1 record had been padded against a soft schedule. That belief appeared to have merit when the Bobcats needed baskets at the buzzer in both regulation and overtime just to survive at home against 17th-seeded Beacon in the opening round.
But a deeper look at Byram Hills’ recent history proves close calls are something it has come to live with. The Bobcats have thrived in spite of them, as evidenced by them winning the 2011 Class A championship despite trailing in the final minute of the sectional quarterfinals at Pelham.
Byram’s resiliency and County Center chops were displayed again Wednesday night against anything but a cupcake. The top-seeded Bobcats settled a halftime tie with a dominant second half and pulled away from No. 5 Peekskill 66-47 in the Class A semifinals.
They advanced to their second championship game in three seasons and will meet No. 3 Poughkeepsie at 7 Sunday night.
“We love this court. We thought we had to make a statement,” said senior Ryan Golden, who had 14 points and five rebounds. “The Beacon game was the best thing that happened to us. We tasted defeat, but we bounced back. Everyone is talking us down, that we’re overrated. I think we needed to make a statement and we did that.”
After a quiet first half, Lynch was aggressive to start the third. He scored nine straight points for the Bobcats, mirroring fellow Golden, who scored the first nine points to lead his team to a 13-8 lead after one quarter.
“We just turned it up to a whole new level,” Lynch said. “I was ice cold in the first half, but Ryan Golden and Andrew Groll were not. That’s what kept us in it. I just happened to spark us in the second half.”
Peekskill managed to pull into a 23-23 tie at halftime despite foul trouble to big men Laron Holt and Musheed Muhammad. Chavis Pigott scored nine straight to briefly give the Red Devils (16-5) a lead, but their forwards couldn’t keep Groll off the glass. The 6-foot-7 sophomore scored a modest eight points but finished with 17 rebounds.
Byram Hills seemed to control every phase of the game in the second half and Peekskill’s frustrations mounted, peaking with a technical foul that led to a skirmish among fans in that caused a delay early in the fourth quarter.
Holt eventually fouled out and his team ended up committing 20 turnovers.
“They’re good. They’re very good, but I thought we were an equal,” Peekskill coach Lou Panzanaro said. “I thought we would be there.”
Photos courtesy of Seth Harrison/The Journal News. For a complete gallery, click here.