The last stretch on Road to the County Center is complete; the Championship Week schedule is set.
Four Class AA teams and four Class B teams won their quarterfinals on Wednesday to advance to next week’s semifinals at the County Center. Before we move on to tonight’s coverage, here’s a look at next week’s schedule:
Championship Week at the County Center
Monday, Feb. 23
Class D semifinals
No. 2 MLK vs. No. 3 Children’s Village, 3 p.m.
No. 1 Clark Academy vs. No. 4 Biondi, 4:45 p.m.
Class C semifinals
No. 2 Hamilton vs. No. 3 Tuckahoe, 6:30 p.m.
No. 1 Haldane vs. No. 4 Solomon Schechter, 8:15 p.m.
Wednesday, Feb. 25
Class B semifinals
No. 2 Briarcliff vs. No. 3 Irvington, 3 p.m.
No. 1 Woodlands vs. No. 5 Putnam Valley, 4:45 p.m.
Class A semifinals
No. 2 Somers vs. No. 3 Byram Hills, 6:30 p.m.
No. 1 Spring Valley vs. No. 5 Tappan Zee, 8:15 p.m.
Friday, Feb. 27
Class D championship
Semifinal winners, 3 p.m.
Class AA semifinals
No. 2 Mount Vernon vs. No. 3 Saunders, 5 p.m.
No. 1 Arlington vs. No. 5 Clarkstown South, 6:45 p.m.
Saturday, Feb. 28
Class C championship
Semifinal winners, 2 p.m.
Class B championship
Semifinal winners, 5 p.m.
Sunday, March 1
Class AA championship
Semifinal winners, 12 p.m.
Class A championship
Semifinal winners, 7 p.m.
CLARKSTOWN SOUTH 59, FOX LANE 47. Story by Josh Thomson.
BEDFORD HILLS – Trailing by 10 at halftime, Clarkstown South’s mission was to trim its deficit by the end of the third quarter. If lucky, maybe the Vikings could even tie it, or so they hoped.
Unbeknownst to everyone in the gym, Justin Rivera had another idea. In fact, the senior forward needed just 2:16 seconds of the third quarter to give his team a lead.
“He turned the game around singlehandedly,” teammate Conor McGuinness said.
Indeed, Rivera (pictured at top) scored 12 straight points to open the second half and No. 5 Clarkstown South rolled from there, beating No. 4 Fox Lane 59-47 in the Class AA quarterfinals.
Rivera scored 14 of his 24 points in the third. McGuinness, a fellow senior, closed the game strong and finished with 19 points. Their Vikings (15-5) outscored Fox Lane by 22 points in the second half.
“They were really focused on Conor. He’s a great player, but he can do a lot of other things,” said Rivera, who also had five rebounds. “He can pass the ball and he got it to me in transition. Once I started hitting shots, the game started coming to me.”
Rivera’s tear took South from a 30-20 halftime deficit to a 32-30 lead when he swished a 3-pointer with 5:44 left in the third quarter. The shellshocked Foxes (14-6) stumbled from there and faltered further when their top defender, Owen Azrak, fouled out midway through the fourth quarter.
Junior Alex Olsen (pictured above) had 15 points and 14 rebounds to lead Fox Lane.
“At halftime, I harped on the fact that the first four minutes of the fourth quarter were important, not to extend the lead, but to maintain it,” coach Mike Tomassi said. “They just came out and punched us in the mouth.”
The Vikings will play unbeaten Arlington (20-0) at 6:45 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 27 in the Class AA semifinals. It will mark their third trip to the County Center in four years and second straight despite McGuinness and Rivera being the only returners who played major minutes.
PHOTO GALLERY: Photos by Frank Becerra Jr.
SAUNDERS 73, GREELEY 59. Story by Vince Mercogliano.
YONKERS – There have been plenty of doubters when it comes to the viability of Saunders basketball in the past few years, but the Blue Devils continue to defy the odds.
They hadn’t won a playoff game since 1998, but they checked that goal off of the list last Thursday with a win against White Plains. No one seems to know when the last time that Saunders made the semifinals — coach Anthony Nicodemo said, “It had to be at least the 1950s” — but the ticket to the County Center was punched on Wednesday with a 73-59 win over Horace Greeley in the Class AA quarterfinals.
The challenge will be even greater next Friday when the third-seeded Blue Devils play defending champ and perennial power Mount Vernon, but they’re taking it head on.
“I’m very excited,” junior guard Derrick Felder (pictured above) said with a wide smile. “We have a chance to see what we can do — what we’re really about.”
After Saunders fell victim to a sluggish start against White Plains in the first round, it was imperative not to let the same thing happen against No. 6 Greeley.
Felder led the charge with a game-high 27 points, but the Blue Devils really separated themselves with their ability to force turnovers and score in transition. Their high-pressure defense led to 19 turnovers for the Quakers.
“We press you for 32 minutes, and eventually, we’ll wear you down,” Nicodemo said. “Forcing those turnovers — and then scoring off of them — is the big difference. Against White Plains, we forced turnovers, but we didn’t score. We scored off of our turnovers today, which was one of our keys. I think that dictated the entire game.”
Of Greeley’s 59 points, 51 came from the duo of Cameron Ciero (26) and Jeff Merchant (25). Saunders was more effective spreading the ball around, with 15 points from McMillan, 10 from Anthony Miller and nine from Will Sullivan. But when the Blue Devils needed a big shot, Felder was their man.
“(Ciero and Merchant) are very good players, and they showed it today,” said Felder, who also added nine rebounds and four assists. “When they were getting back (in the game), I said to myself, ‘I don’t want my dream season to end like this.’ I had to step up and do what I needed to do.”
PHOTO GALLERY: Photos by Mark Vergari.
Other Class AA semifinals
Mount Vernon 75, Suffern 41: In a Class AA quarterfinal at No. 2 Mount Vernon, Marlon Taylor had 20 points, Eric Monroe added 12 and Noah Morgan had seven rebounds and six assists. The Knights, who have now made the County Center in all 21 of Bob Cimmino’s seasons as head coach, will play No. 3 Saunders at 5 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 27 in the semifinals.
Arlington 45, Mamaroneck 34: In a Class AA quarterfinal at No. 1 Arlington, Miles Haughton had nine points and six rebounds the the eighth-seeded Tigers, who held the unbeaten Admirals 20 points under their season average. Alex Parkinson and Dean DeLucia added eight points apiece and Parkinson grabbed eight rebounds.
Class B semifinals
Briarcliff 73, Croton-Harmon 63: In a Class B quarterfinal at No. 2 Briarcliff, Sean Crowley had 18 points, Jack Reish had 14 and Alquan Phillip added 13 for the Bears. Lucas Curran had 14 points and Teejay Searight had 13 for No. 7 Croton. Briarcliff will play No. 3 Irvington at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 25 in the semifinals at the County Center.
Irvington 57, Palisade Prep 44: In a Class B quarterfinal at No. 3 Irvington, Andrew Brennan had 18 points, Kevin Tierney had 14 and Justin Martins added 11. Palisade Prep tied the score 29-29 on two free throws by Maliq Hooks midway through the third quarter, but Irvington outscored the Phoenix 28-15 the remainder of game.
Putnam Valley 49, Ardsley 41: In a Class B quarterfinal at No. 5 Putnam Valley, Anders Spittal had all 10 of his points in the fourth quarter to help the Tigers rally from 30-29 deficit after three. Ryan Basso and Harrison Deegan each led Putnam Valley with 11. Jon Getz and Zach Saklad each had 12 for No. 13 Ardsley, which led 30-29 heading into the fourth. The Tigers will play No. 1 Woodlands at 4:45 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 25 in the semifinals at the County Center. It will be a rematch of last year’s Class B final, which was won by Woodlands.
Woodlands 74, Bronxville 49: In a Class B quarterfinal at No. 1 Woodlands, Pierre Lys had 22 points, Brandon Johnson had 16 and Ross Joseph had 13 for the Falcons. Charlie Tarry had 16 points to lead No. 9 Bronxville.