The season is now, officially, over. With the Federation tournament complete, there’s no more evidence to gather. It’s time to rank the area’s best one last time.
Here’s a look back at my first rankings from the regular season. As you’d imagine, there are some strong areas and some weak ones, most notably the complete absence of Class B and C champs Lourdes and Palisade Prep from the list.
I’d like to think these are better. I judged the teams both based on how they were playing by the end of the season and on the strength of their overall resumes. Usually, those two go hand in hand. When it doesn’t? Well, that’s what makes the rankings subjective, so…let’s hear it.
THE TOP 10
1. STEPINAC (20-8) — In arguably the top league in the state, the Crusaders probably had their best season in 27 years. They reached the CHSAA AA semifinals, which, as far as Catholic schools go, also happen to be state semifinals. They beat Archbishop Molloy on the road and beat St. Ray’s by double-digits twice. They beat Class A state runner-up Burke Catholic. They also swept Iona Prep and won the Slam Dunk, beating both Mahopac and Class AA state runner-up New Rochelle by double-digits. Put simply, they played better competition AND had a better resume than any team in the area.
2. NEW ROCHELLE (16-10) — The Huguenots started the season 2-6 and were 8-9 the morning when Section 1 announced its playoff brackets. You know the rest. One magical shot later (and their fair share of improvement), the Huguenots were state finalists. Their middling record was mitigated by what they accomplished during a postseason that included wins over three of the top five seeds in the Section 1 tourney (Spring Valley, Mount Vernon and Mahopac) and a win over a good Kingston team in the regionals. That late push — particular what it accomplished AFTER the Section 1 final — earned New Ro the No. 2 spot. It was close…
3. MOUNT VERNON (19-2) — Frankly, I considered Mount Vernon for the No. 2 spot. When you take everything into consideration, the Knights have every reason to be No. 2. They beat New Ro two out of three times; went a perfect 10-0 in the league (New Ro was 7-3, including a loss to Scarsdale); beat Bishop Kearney (the team that beat New Ro in the state final); and beat North Rockland (a team that dominated New Ro in late Jan.). But give New Rochelle credit for winning the game that counted, even if it came on a once-in-a-lifetime shot. Even without the shot, the gap between rivals was clearly narrowed by March. And Mount Vernon never had a chance to pad its resume in the state tournament.
4. POUGHKEEPSIE (19-3) — On any given day, this could’ve been the section’s top team. It was certainly the deepest and most skilled, and arguably the most versatile. Poughkeepsie proved it deserved the gold ball in Class A by going through Tappan Zee, Eastchester and Byram Hills, a trio that consisted of three of the top five or six teams by any measure. Byram fans will argue their team’s chances were curtailed by foul trouble. I agree. Were the game called differently, Byram would’ve had a chance to win. However, that’s why Poughkeepsie had the better team when it counted. The Pioneers could dip into their bench and withstand a closely-called game. Byram couldn’t.
5. NORTH ROCKLAND (18-3) — Physically speaking, the Red Raiders could play with anyone. They proved that in thoroughly dominant performances against New Rochelle and Spring Valley late in the regular season. They proved it again in the first half against Mount Vernon in the Class AA semis. Ultimately, I think they never quite reached their ceiling. The team was loaded with talent, but much of it had little varsity experience. Here’s a case where the 18-game limit — and scheduling requirements within the conference — hurt. North Rockland could’ve used one or two more tough tests.
6. IONA PREP (14-13) — You never knew which Iona Prep team would come to play. At its best, Iona beat Cardinal Hayes, New Rochelle and St. Ray’s. At their worst, the Gaels dropped seven of eight at midseason. That inconsistency can be traced to a young lineup that included two juniors, two sophomores and a freshman in the top six by season’s end. They meshed late, winning seven of 10 to end the season, losing two to Bishop Loughlin and one to Hayes, two of the city’s best.
7. BYRAM HILLS (19-2) — The Bobcats’ cohesiveness and varied skills made them one of the area’s top teams. They proved that in the playoffs despite a pretty modest regular season schedule and an opening round scare against Beacon. Byram shook that off to dominate Somers and Peekskill en route to the Class A final, a game it might have won had its frontcourt stayed on the floor. But Byram’s thin margin of error was on display earlier in the season (Blind Brook, Pleasantville, Beacon) and it ultimately caused its season to fall short.
8. MAHOPAC (17-4) — The Indians had to kick themselves watching New Rochelle march through the postseason. They nearly had the Huguenots beat, leading by 11 points in the second half before foul trouble and turnovers conspired in a five-point loss in the Class AA semifinals. That not only ended a 15-game winning streak, it halted the season for a tight, defensive-minded group that proved to be a difficult matchup for many. Mahopac’s highlights were another league title and another dramatic quarterfinal OT victory over Arlington to reach the County Center.
9. SPRING VALLEY (17-3) — The Tigers’ potential was (and is) evident, but they didn’t wait for the future to prove it. Their resurgent season included wins over county rivals North Rockland, Tappan Zee and Pearl River, and a very impressive victory over one of Long Island’s top public school programs, Uniondale. Spring Valley ultimately lost amid the intense pressure applied by a senior-laden New Rochelle team, but this should be one of the top-ranked teams heading into next season.
10. ARLINGTON (16-4) — The Admirals fell painfully short of their ultimate goal, but they definitely impressed in defeat. Their 2 OT loss to Mahopac proved their season-opening win was no fluke. They also won two out of three against Class B champ Lourdes, swept Beacon and played Poughkeepsie within five points (53-48) as recently as Jan. 30. In fact, Poughkeepsie was the only team on Arlington’s schedule it didn’t beat.
The bubble: Eastchester (19-2), Peekskill (16-5), Albertus Magnus (15-5).
Rockland: North Rockland and Spring Valley have similar resumes, but look closer. North Rockland was much more dominant in victory.
1. North Rockland
2. Spring Valley
3. Albertus Magnus
4. Tappan Zee
T5. Pearl River
Small schools: My Top 5 in Class B is the Top 5 here. All five of these teams played some very good basketball late in the season.
1. Our Lady of Lourdes
2. Dobbs Ferry
3. North Salem
4. Putnam Valley
Class AA: Objectively speaking, the Top 6 are very hard to argue. Neither was the late push by White Plains, which happened to draw the wrong team (Mount Vernon) in the first round.
1. New Rochelle
2. Mount Vernon
3. North Rockland
5. Spring Valley
8. White Plains
9. Fox Lane
10. Clarkstown South
Class A: Even in its opening round defeat, Panas proved it could play with some of the best in Class A.
2. Byram Hills
5. Albertus Magnus
6. Tappan Zee
Class B: It’s a challenge to differentiate between Nos. 6-10, but Edgemont seemed to play the best basketball over the final couple of weeks.
1. Our Lady of Lourdes
2. Dobbs Ferry
3. North Salem
4. Putnam Valley
Class C/D: For rankings purposes, there’s nothing better than when teams decide it on the court. Palisade Prep and Children’s Village did just that. The Phoenix won the gold ball by winning their rubber match in convincing fashion.
1. Palisade Prep
2. Children’s Village
CHSAA/Privates: As I’ve said all season, a clear delineation between the area’s non-publics this year. Stepinac was clearly better than Iona this year, Iona better than Sacred Heart and so on.
2. Iona Prep
3. Sacred Heart
5. Rye Country Day