On the eve of the postseason, no school has as much reason to brim with pride over the success of its basketball teams quite like Clarkstown South. The Vikings and Lady Vikings are a near-perfect 35-1 so far this season, and their season of can-you-top-this was chronicled in today’s story by Nancy Haggerty.
The South basketball teams feature one of the best boy-girl tandems in Westchester, Rockland and Putnam Counties. In fact, when girls basketball writer Mike Zacchio and I drew up our list of the area’s best tandems, South seniors Joe Zayer and Laura Castaldo were picked as No. 1.
So, with the Section 1 tournaments poised to start this weekend (we hope), here’s a look at our Top 10 tandems, a few others we named honorable mention and the area’s three-best non-public duos:
The Top 10 Tandems
1. Joe Zayer and Laura Castaldo, Clarkstown South: The sharp-shooting Zayer is one of the section’s top all-around guards. He has been a key piece to South’s 17-1 start, sinking or assisting on game-winning baskets against New Rochelle, Suffern and Spring Valley. Castaldo, who has committed to Maryland-Baltimore County, has averaged 27.2 ppg and 11.5 rpg for the 18-0 girls. She is currently 13th on Rockland County’s all-time scoring list.
2. Brandon Martin and Curstyn Moore, Mount Vernon: In his third year on varsity, Martin’s role continues to evolve. He was a state champ as a sophomore, an all-section forward as a junior and is now one of the section’s best as a junior. He netted a career-high 34 points last week against Scarsdale. Moore might be the best freshman in the section. The niece of former coach Patrice Wallace-Moore has recorded a double-double every game this season.
3. Kevin Degnan and Emma Daly, Pearl River: As the favorite to be named “Mr. Basketball,” the Fairfield-bound Degnan has fulfilled on his promise as a senior. He dropped 43 points last week against Nyack, including the 1,000th of his career. Daly, a junior, started hot and ended the regular season with a 24-point effort against Scarsdale.
4. Neorck Brown and Lanay Rodney, Peekskill: The 6-foot-4 Brown remains an unfinished product, but he has quickly emerged as one of the section’s most talented seniors. His size, serious range and ability to finish in transition makes him one of the most interesting college prospects on the boys side. His counterpart is just a sophomore, but her ascent could one day place her among the top scorers in county history. She was named Class A tournament MVP last year as a freshman.
5. Jamil Gambari and Imani Tilford, Woodlands: After serving as a role player last season, Gambari developed into an all-section forward for the Falcons, who enter the Class B tournament as a co-favorite to win the gold ball. Tilford is the area’s highest senior recruit, boy or girl. The dynamic guard has committed to Georgia Tech. She showed that talented with a triple-double against Eastchester and a 45-point, 10-rebound, eight-assist show against four-time defending state champ Irvington.
6. Ivan Iton and Jalay Knowles, Ossining: The rangy Iton has been the central figure for Ossining, which secured the No. 10 seed in the Class AA tournament. He has evolved into a two-way all-conference forward. Knowles, of course, was a key member of last year’s Class AA state champ. She’s earned Division I attention while averaging 22.0 ppg and 9.0 rpg as a junior.
7. Ryan Simone and Mairead Hynes, Mahopac: Productivity defines this duo. Simone, a three-year contributor for a winner, averages a double-double as the Indians seek an unprecedented fourth-straight trip to the County Center. Hynes, the younger sister of last year’s star Brendan Hynes, scored her 1,000th career point last month. Like Simone, she is an outstanding rebounder.
8. Jack Daly and Olivia Heffernan, Eastchester: These two can really score, but both are terrific all-around players. Daly is not only the program’s all-time leading scorer, he’s the emotional and physical leader for the 16-2 Eagles, who enter the postseason as the Class A favorite and one of the area’s best teams period. Heffernan, a junior, has led her team in scoring in 17 of 18 games this season, averaging 16 ppg to go with about seven rebounds and five assists.
9. Luke McLaughlin and Kristen McLaughlin, Tappan Zee: This brother-sister duo have been filling up baskets at Tappan Zee for years. Luke, a junior, emerged as an all-section swingman this season and is one of the top players in Rockland. He played off the bench as a freshman on the school’s only state runner-up in program history. His older sister scored her 1,00th career point earlier this season. The Fairfield commit dropped 41 points in the regular-season finale against Byram Hills.
10. Derek Dorn and Amirror Dixon, New Rochelle: Talent abounds for this duo. Dorn is one of the section’s best clutch players. He has been money down the stretch for the Huguenots after a terrific postseason helped his team to the Class AA state championship game. Dixon, also a senior, is the leader on a talented New Rochelle team despite coming off a knee injury that sidelined her for much of last season.
Owen Lorenz and Kelly Guarino, Albertus Magnus
Andrew Groll and Lucy Bancone, Byram Hills
Coby Lefkowitz and Kyle Lefkowitz, Harrison
Cameron Ciero and Lauren Brown, Horace Greeley
Mike Macchia and Laurilyn Gelardi, Irvington
Mike DeMello and Tess D’Arcy, White Plains
Top duos, non-Section 1:
Sean Delany and Kiera Hennessy, Kennedy
Mike Jurzynski and Naya Williams, Masters
Tyler Fernandez and Tara Berger, Rye Country Day