With New Rochelle, Poughkeepsie, Our Lady of Lourdes and Palisade Prep eliminated, and Martin Luther King Jr. having moved to Class C, Section 1 will have five new boys basketball champions in 2014. Here’s how this season’s semifinalists stack up:
2013 champ: New Rochelle. The Huguenots stunned seven-time champ Mount Vernon at the buzzer, but the Knights ended their title defense in the quarterfinals.
Favorite: Mount Vernon. The Knights’ only loss came against nationally ranked White Station (Memphis, Tenn.).
Dark horse: Clarkstown South. Undersized but long on experience, the Vikings have never won a Section 1 boys basketball championship.
Game to watch: Clarkstown South vs. Spring Valley, semifinals. These teams split during the regular season, each winning on the other’s home court. What a venue and what a time to settle the season series.
Championship pick: Mount Vernon over Spring Valley. Experience, toughness and defense will be keys for the Knights because Spring Valley might have the more gifted team.
MVP pick: Brandon Martin, Mount Vernon
Team profiles —
No. 1 Mount Vernon (18-1)
Coach: Bob Cimmino
Key players: Brandon Martin (6-3), Sr., F; Devonte Banner (6-2), Sr., G; Judah Alexander (6-5), Sr., F.
X-factor: Shooting. If the Knights hit even a few jumpers, just ship the gold ball to California Road.
No. 2 Clarkstown South (19-1)
Coach: Matt Backs
Key players: Joe Zayer (5-11), Sr., G; Conor McGuinness (5-9), Jr., PG; Kevin Martinez (6-1), Sr., F.
X-factor: Avoiding foul trouble. Zayer and Martinez have been foul-prone. They are too important to let that happen on a team that lacks depth.
No. 5 Mahopac (17-3)
Coach: Kevin Downes
Key players: Ryan Simone (6-5), Sr., F; R.J. Martinez (6-2), Sr., G; Glen Janik (5-10), Sr., G.
X-factor: Protecting the ball. If the Indians can avoid turnovers, they can take advantage of matchups with Simone and Martinez, one of the section’s best tandems.
No. 6 Spring Valley (16-4)
Coach: Willie Worsley
Key players: Kai Mitchell (6-5), Jr., F; Rickey McGill (6-0), Jr., G; Jordan Duncan (6-5), Sr., F.
X-factor: Defensive intensity. If the Tigers are as committed defensively as they showed in the quarterfinals against White Plains, they will be hard to beat.
2013 champ: Poughkeepsie. Tappan Zee bounced the young Pioneers in the first round to end their final season in Section 1.
Favorite: Eastchester. The uptempo Eagles beat New Rochelle and Kingston, the defending Class AA champs in Sections 1 and 9.
Dark horse: Harrison. The Huskies have not reached the County Center since 1968 and haven’t won it all since a decade before that.
Game to watch: Eastchester vs. Panas, final. If the matchup comes to fruition, Panas might be the only team with enough length and athleticism to give the favorite fits.
Championship pick: Eastchester over Panas. The Eagles aren’t a paper favorite. They earned it.
MVP pick: Jack Daly, Eastchester
Team profiles —
No. 1 Eastchester (18-2)
Coach: Fred DiCarlo
Key players: Jack Daly (6-2), Sr., PG; Benny DiMirco (5-8), So., G; Mike Milo (6-2), Sr., F.
X-factor: Nick Campana. When the senior’s shot is on, the Eagles are at their best.
No. 2 Panas (16-4)
Coach: Shawn Sullivan
Key players: Timmy McCauley (5-10), Sr., PG; Tyler Mason (6-3), Sr., F; Tom Parrish (5-10), Sr., G.
X-factor: McCauley. When he’s at his best, he’s one of the section’s top point guards and the Panthers can play with just about anyone.
No. 4 Harrison (16-4)
Coach: Gary Chiarella
Key players: Matt Stein (5-11), Sr., G; Nick Esposito (5-11), Sr., G; Coby Lefkowitz (6-4), Sr., F.
X-factor: Nerves. The Huskies can’t allow the moment to overwhelm them against hungry Eastchester.
No. 6 Tappan Zee (18-3)
Coach: George Gaine
Key players: Luke McLaughlin (6-5), Jr., F; Ryan McWilliams (6-3), Sr., F; Phil Powers (5-10), Sr., G.
X-factor: Protecting the ball. The veteran Dutchmen have struggled closing games late in the season due to turnovers. Few teams execute better when they don’t turn it over.
2013 champ: Our Lady of Lourdes. The Warriors moved up to Class A and lost to Tappan Zee in the quarterfinals.
Favorite: Woodlands. Close call, but the Falcons beat preseason favorite Putnam Valley by 16 back in December.
Dark horse: Rye Neck. A late 3-pointer by Chris Cascione got the Panthers here. Strong senior leadership could help them take advantage.
Game to watch: Woodlands vs. Putnam Valley, final. The Tigers have waited more than two months for this rematch, but will have to beat top-seeded Irvington first.
Championship pick: Woodlands over Putnam Valley. What separates the Falcons is their balance. All five starters can score in double figures, making them a nightmare to contain.
MVP pick: Jamil Gambari, Woodlands
Team profiles —
No. 1 Irvington (18-1)
Coach: Mike Auerbach
Key players: Mike Macchia (6-3), Sr., F; Kevin Tierney (6-3), Jr., F; Jon Goldreich (6-1), Sr., G/F.
X-factor: Transition defense. The Bulldogs will have to retreat quickly because Putnam Valley is at its best creating offense in transition.
No. 4 Putnam Valley (17-3)
Coach: Mike McDonnell
Key players: Zach Coleman (6-2), Sr., G; Jelani Bell-Isaac (6-4), Sr., C; Ryan Basso (5-11), Jr., G.
X-factor: Avoiding foul trouble. Putnam Valley’s starting five is strong, but Bell-Isaac in particular has to stay on the floor.
No. 6 Woodlands (15-5)
Coach: Bob Murphy
Key players: Jamil Gambari (6-2), Jr., F; Abdoulaye Sow (5-11), Sr., G; Ross Joseph (6-1), Jr., G/F.
X-factor: Gambari. As Murphy often says, when Gambari’s at his best, so is Woodlands.
No. 7 Rye Neck (16-4)
Coach: Shawn Lincoln
Key players: Matt Franks (6-5), Sr., F; Chris Pennell (5-11), Sr., G; Chris Cascione (6-1), Sr., G.
X-factor: Team defense. Rye Neck can’t afford any defensive lapses against an opponent as relentless as Woodlands.
2013 champ: Palisade Prep. The Phoenix moved up to Class B and lost in the quarterfinals to Woodlands.
Favorite: None. Any of the four could claim the mantle, with a slight edge to the Hamilton-Haldane winner.
Dark horse: Tuckahoe. The undersized Tigers needed a 13-point rally in the final three minutes just to advance to the County Center.
Game to watch: Hamilton vs. Haldane, semifinals. Haldane has guards taller than Hamilton’s forwards, but the Red Raiders can fly.
Championship pick: Hamilton over Tuckahoe. Even with its lack of size, Hamilton should thrive in the open court at the County Center.
MVP pick: Eli Sierra, Hamilton
Team profiles —
No. 1 Martin Luther King Jr. (11-5)
Coach: Scott Green
Key players: Dashawn Johnson (6-3), Sr., F; Daquan Campbell (6-2), Fr., F; Chris Sanchez (5-7), Jr., G.
X-factor: Finishing strong. The Tigers nearly let their regular-season game against Tuckahoe slip away before winning 47-45.
No. 2 Hamilton (10-8)
Coach: Keith Wright
Key players: Eli Sierra (6-1), Sr., G; Jaleel Barr (6-1), Jr., G; Craig Brown (5-11), Sr., G.
X-factor: Rebounding. With no players taller than 6-1, Hamilton will need to clean the glass collectively.
No. 3 Haldane (12-6)
Coach: Joe Virgadamo
Key players: Peter Hoffmann (6-4), Jr., G/F; Michael Halpin (6-3), Sr, G/F; Garrett Quigley (6-4), Jr. G.
X-factor: Taking advantage of size. Haldane’s biggest players are among its most skilled, and the Blue Devils should have an advantage in the paint against this Class C field.
No. 5 Tuckahoe (8-11)
Coach: Al Visconti
Key players: Max Pearce (6-0), Sr., G; Mo Hollis (5-11), Sr., G; Rami Higgins (6-2), Sr., F.
X-factor: Pushing the tempo. Tuckahoe wants to play faster, higher-scoring games. The Tigers won’t advance if the tempo grinds to a halt.
2013 champ: Martin Luther King Jr. MLK advanced to the state final last year, but is now a Class C contender.
Favorite: Biondi. The Lions have plenty of County Center experience, led by all-state senior Johnnie Gray.
Dark horse: Clark Academy. Clark is much more formidable after losing by 38 points last year to MLK.
Game to watch: Biondi vs. Clark. They are the only teams in the field.
Championship pick: Biondi over Clark. It should be close, but Biondi’s athleticism and experience give last year’s runner-up the edge.
MVP pick: Johnnie Gray, Biondi
Team profiles —
No. 1 Biondi (6-11)
Coach: Bob Delle Bovi
Key players: Johnnie Gray (6-1), Sr., G; Shaquan Houston (5-11), Sr., G; Trevor Toney (6-4), Jr., F.
X-factor: Houston and Toney. Houston is the team’s best defender and second-leading scorer. Toney is raw, but his shot-blocking is key.
No. 2 Clark Academy (6-12)
Coach: Anthony Gaines
Key players: Calvin Walters (6-1), Sr., F; Andre Carthorn (6-0), So., PG; Shane McCalla (6-3), So., C.
X-factor: Pressure defense. Clark likes to play uptempo on offense, but that starts when its defense forces mistakes.
To jog your memories, here’s a look back at what happened during Championship Week, 2013:
New Rochelle 47, Mahopac 42.
Mount Vernon 52, North Rockland 40.
New Rochelle 61, Mount Vernon 60.
Poughkeepsie 61, Eastchester 48.
Byram Hills 66, Peekskill 47.
Poughkeepsie 56, Byram Hills 47.
Dobbs Ferry 72, North Salem 66.
Lourdes 56, Putnam Valley 41.
Lourdes 85, Dobbs Ferry 80 (OT).
Palisade Prep 66, Haldane 46.
Children’s Village 64, Tuckahoe 51.
Palisade Prep 79, Children’s Village 57.
Martin Luther King 61, Clark Academy 23.
Biondi 53, Greenburgh Academy 36.
Martin Luther King 49, Biondi 42.