My efforts at playoff predicting had its best day Wednesday. With a 4-0 mark, my postseason record improved to 36-8. The games mostly played out as I expected — Briarcliff-Irvington and Byram-Somers tight, Woodlands and Spring Valley by double digits — although Putnam Valley played Woodlands closer than the final score indicated (or I suggested).
There will be three games at the County Center today, including the last two semifinals of the week. The Class AA semifinals offer two interesting matchups between teams that played very, very different schedules, so I contacted some coaches (who will remain nameless) for their thoughts.
Here was their consensus:
Mount Vernon-Saunders. Mount Vernon will beat Saunders by 15-20 points. The teams play similar styles, although Mount Vernon is deeper, both in its starting lineup and its bench. Saunders’ Derrick Felder will be one of the best players on the floor, but even his 20-plus points won’t be enough against a deeper, more balanced opponent that will be the best team Saunders has faced since early December.
Arlington-Clarkstown South. The consensus for this game was much different. In fact, there’s no true consensus. Different coaches have different opinions. Just about everyone expects a close game that could go either way. Arlington has plenty of size up front and a terrific senior in Brendan Sunday, but it might struggle with South’s defensive pressure. Do the Admirals have anyone to contain Conor McGuinness?
Arlington and Fox Lane are similar in terms of their level of play. (Remember, they played a very close game back in December.) Both shoot the ball well and have two very good, versatile big men. However, South was very effective in the second half against Fox Lane because of its guard play, which helped force turnovers and get big man Justin Rivera going. The formula should be similar against Arlington.
OK, here are my picks:
Class D championship
No. 1 Clark Academy vs. No. 2 MLK, 3 p.m.
The key: Rebounding. MLK controlled the glass in both games this season — a 59-58 MLK win on Jan. 13 when Daquan Campbell hit a 3-pointer with 5 seconds left and a 66-60 Clark win on Feb. 10. As we know, there are always a lot of second chances up for grabs at the County Center. Clark can’t let MLK earn extra possessions all game long.
The pick: Clark 67, MLK 61. From top to bottom, I think Clark has the better, more experienced team. The Knights have players who have won a gold ball before and they have quality depth. This is their game to win.
MVP: Andre Carthorn, Clark.
Class AA semifinals
No. 2 Mount Vernon vs. No 3 Saunders, 5 p.m.
The key: The third quarter. Mount Vernon has been tremendous all season coming out of halftime. Because they play so many players, the Knights are always very fresh. They have dominated just about everyone to turn close games into blowouts. Ask Clarkstown South, Scarsdale, Mamaroneck, etc., who have all felt that wrath. I expect the game to be close at halftime, but Saunders will have to survive a third-quarter surge in order to be there in the end.
The pick: Mount Vernon 78, Saunders 64. Although I think it will be a little closer than some others, I like Mount Vernon for much the same reason the coaches do. I think these teams like to play very similarly, but Mount Vernon has more at its disposal. And, remember: Saunders has not played an opponent that would stay within 20 points of Mount Vernon since Dec. 13. The Blue Devils just beat White Plains by 2 at home. Mount Vernon beat its rival by 44 under similar circumstances.
Your pick: Mount Vernon, 66.1 percent.
No. 1 Arlington vs. No. 5 Clarkstown South, 6:45 p.m.
The key: Handling pressure. If South is going to win, it will have to turn Arlington over and win the game with its guard play. The Vikings will have to make their share of 3’s, but it all starts with defense. If Arlington can protect the ball, it should win.
The pick: Clarkstown South 61, Arlington 60. Arlington is 20-0 and that cannot be discounted. But the fact is, South may be the best team Arlington has faced all season. South probably isn’t at the level of its last two County Center teams, but the program has played in plenty of big games and that includes several of the players on this roster. I like that experience in what I expect to be a very tight game.
Your pick: Arlington, 51.2 percent.