Here’s Rick Carpiniello’s column on the swirling emotions at work in the aftermath of Khalil Edney’s buzzer-beater Sunday at the County Center:
WHITE PLAINS – This old building has seen it all. Well, now it has.
The County Center has seen buzzer beaters, long before Charlie Criss started hitting them decades ago, and many since. It has seen crazy championship games on wild nights, like the time New Rochelle beat Mount Vernon in 2005 – the only time from 1999 until yesterday that the Knights didn’t win the Section 1 AA boys basketball championship.
It has seen pandemonium and mayhem at the ends of Championship Week basketball games.
But it had never seen this, because nobody had: Both teams dog-pile celebrating a championship simultaneously, with players, coaches and fans from both schools storming the floor.
“This is the craziest game I’ve ever been in in my life,” New Rochelle’s Joe Clarke understated after the Huguenots ended the Knights’ boys record run of seven straight championships with a 61-60 victory.
Ended that streak and that game in the most unimaginable way. Because Mount Vernon had the game won, had stuffed the Huguenots’ attempted comeback from a 10-point hole. All the Knights had to do … Let’s rewind. With a 60-58 lead, and 2.9 seconds left, New Ro’s Khalil Edney was inbounding the ball under Mount Vernon’s basket.
Edney’s pass was tipped by Mount Vernon’s Jalen David and picked off by Devonte Banner at mid-court. Ballgame over, right?
Banner tossed it up in the air, either to kill clock or in premature celebration. Edney ran up to grab it, and – remember, he was the quarterback on the state championship New Ro football team – as the Knights’ bench hugged each other, Edney fired a shot three-quarters the length of the court right into the center of the hoop.
Now both teams were celebrating, Mount Vernon thinking the shot was late, some perhaps didn’t even see the shot because the party had started. And that’s where it got nuts. One referee, Bill Sacco, immediately waved it off. Mount Vernon coach Bob Cimmino sat down, fearing it would be overturned. Fans had stormed the court, some arguing the call vehemently, to say the least.
Then the three referees (Sacco, Vin Cannizaro and Scott Moroney) huddled and got it right by all replay accounts, overturning the initial call. Edney’s shot did indeed beat the clock, and changing everybody’s moods 180 degrees.
“I ran around and my team jumped on me,” said Edney, adding that the Huguenots practice last-second heaves. “I’m at the bottom of the pile, so I can’t really see anything or hear anything. One of my coaches came over and said it was no good. Then they … said it was good.”
“Some kid (cartwheel) flipped when I was on the bottom and then they said it was no good. I started crying. I was shocked that we lost. But then they turned around and said it was good and he dropped to the ground and started crying, so I started celebrating.”
Edney said that the only thing that came close was a final-seconds drive against Shaker in the state football playoffs, when Clarke was his receiver on the winning touchdown. But that was tame compared to this.
“He’s just a great player,” Clarke said of Edney, who missed the semifinal with a sprained ankle but insisted in playing yesterday. “He’s determined to win. He has a winner’s mentality just like the rest of us basketball players on this team.”
In 2005, that New Ro team that shocked Mount Vernon was led by quarterback Geoff McDermott and a kid named Ray Rice, who together had won a state football title in ’03 and lost in a crazy football state final in ’04.
“We have champions on this team,” teary-eyed first-year coach Rasaun Young said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re a hockey champion, rugby, football, baseball – a champion’s a champion, and that’s the type of attitude they have. I have three players (Terrence Holden is the other) who were leaders on the football team playing basketball.
“And if you come to our practices you’ll see those three are leaders. They led today.”