I have plenty to share tonight from the first night of the Slam Dunk at the County Center.
First, Spring Valley routed Bedford Academy of Brooklyn to earn its rematch with Iona Prep:
SPRING VALLEY 95, BEDFORD ACADEMY 62
Behind 30 points from Manhattan commit Rickey McGill, the Tigers routed Bedford Academy of Brooklyn 95-62 in the opening round of the Slam Dunk Tournament on Thursday at the County Center. They advanced to face Iona Prep at 8 p.m. in the championship game on Friday.
Iona Prep handed Spring Valley (5-1) its only loss, 72-66, at White Plains High School on Dec. 15.
“We’re very much looking forward to that,” said McGill, who shot 11 for 18 and added 11 rebounds, three assists and two steals. “I’ve been working in the gym on my shot so I can help my team get better.”
McGill, a 6-foot junior guard, did that Thursday, showcasing his electricity in the open court. He and junior Deyondre Downing led a 19-9 run to close the second quarter and build a 45-29 halftime lead.
McGill was at his best in the third quarter. He hit a 3-pointer and threw down a dunk to open a 17-point period. With his team up 78-44 after three, McGill sat the remainder of the night.
Downing finished with 17 points and six assists. Despite being limited to 18 minutes, Kai Mitchell, a 6-foot-5 junior, contributed 14 points and 10 rebounds.
“I’m the leader of the team, so when Kai’s out I have to make sure everybody around me is better,” McGill said.
His play clinched a rematch with Iona Prep that left Spring Valley coach Willie Worsley at least a little apprehensive.
“I think the kids are looking more forward to it than I am,” Worsley said. “I have to figure out how to stop them.”
Now, here’s more from Worsley and McGill:
IONA PREP 79, EASTCHESTER 69
In the nightcap, Iona Prep looked like a completely different team than the one that struggled last December in losing to Somers at the buzzer. This time, the Gaels dispatched of Eastchester despite a monster night from Benny DiMirco.
WHITE PLAINS — The lead had been whittled down to eight with 2:26 to play. Suddenly, a moment of minor crisis triggered a memory Iona Prep had hoped to forget.
“I went into the huddle and said, ‘We’re not losing to this team,’ ” junior Matt Ryan said. “Somers kept running through my head.”
The Gaels’ last experience in the County Center had ended in misery when they lost a challenge game to Somers at the buzzer. But they showed just how far they’ve come Thursday night, picking apart Eastchester 79-69 in the opening round of this season’s Slam Dunk Tournament.
Ryan, a 6-foot-7 junior, led a balanced score sheet with 24 points and six rebounds. Senior Isaiah Ice (10 points), junior Tom Capuano (14) and sophomore Ty Jerome (19) all joined him in double figures.
Serving as a trailer against an opponent eager to run, Ryan hit six 3-pointers, leading his team to a lead that swelled as large as 18 points.
“It was a big stage, so we just wanted to come out here in front of a packed house,” said Jerome, whose team will play Spring Valley at 8 p.m. Friday in the final. “The most important thing was for us to have fun.”
Eastchester sophomore Benny DiMirco did his best to prevent that from happening. He scored a game-high 27 points on the strength of eight 3-pointers, and had four steals.
Iona Prep (5-3) keyed on senior Jack Daly, who had 16 points, eight rebounds and five assists, but connected on just 1 of 10 from 3-point range.
“They’re a great team,” DiMirco said. “I just played my best. We came up short, but our effort was great the whole night.”
The Eagles (5-1) will meet Bedford Academy at 2 p.m. Friday in the consolation game.
Here’s Ryan and Jerome talking about Iona Prep’s win:
And here’s DiMirco talking about his big night against quality competition:
Photographer Peter Carr also had a postgame video, including thoughts from Iona Prep coach Vic Quirolo: