Here’s Mike Dougherty’s story on Woodlands, which regrouped after a mid-game slump to advance to Saturday’s final:
WHITE PLAINS – After watching one too many perimeter shots clang off the rim, Woodlands put the ball back on the floor.
It was exactly the right move.
Rye Neck worked so hard to control the pace of the game, but had no answer Monday once the quicker Falcons attacked the rim with more urgency in the fourth quarter and pulled out a 51-44 win in a Class B semifinal at the County Center.
“Coach emphasized that not everything had to be a 3,” said Woodlands forward Ross Joseph, who led his team with 18 points. “We saw certain gaps and we attacked and we got to the rack and got fouled, or we got rebounds and put shots back up, so everybody helped us.”
The Panthers were up three when the fourth quarter got under way, but were unable to increase the lead. Both teams were playing hands-on defense.
And once the Falcons began to pull down rebounds, they surged.
“We were nervous down the stretch because it was the first time playing at the County Center for most of us,” said Woodlands guard Pierre Lys, who came off the bench with 11 points.
Abdoulaye Sow got inside and gave the Falcons a 38-36 lead with 4:52 to go. It was a five-point game after Brandon Johnson drove and set up Joseph with 2:12 left in the game.
“We played great defense in the first half, but once they adjusted in the third quarter it became a little more difficult,” said Rye Neck forward Matt Franks, who scored 17 points. “They have a lot of athletic guards. Even their big men are quick. It’s hard to keep them all from penetrating.”
Woodlands plays No. 4 Putnam Valley on Saturday at 2 p.m. for the championship.
Early on, the Falcons controlled the boards and set a hectic pace. The Panthers fueled a 10-0 run that extended into the second quarter with untimely turnovers and were down 21-13 with 6:13 to play in the half. Sixth-seeded Woodlands hit a pothole, though, and only managed one basket the rest of the half.
It was ugly at times on both ends, but Chris Pennell sparked seventh-seeded Rye Neck with a straightaway 3 and Franks went to work in the lane, closing out the half with back-to-back scores that made the deficit a manageable 23-20.
The Panthers moved in front 26-25 with 3:47 to go in the third quarter when Franks pushed the ball up court off a missed free throw and scored. Pennell converted a reverse layup in the final seconds to put Rye Neck up 32-29 going into the fourth.