YORKTOWN HEIGHTS – Tom Bell has asked his team the question:
“Do you want to go home or do you want to go to Binghamton?”
The Spackenkill High School basketball players always answer with the logical choice. And, after Tuesday, the Spartans’ hopes for a New York State championship remain alive.
At Yorktown High School, Section 9 champion Spackenkill defeated Section 1 champion Pleasantville, 69-50, in a Class B regional semifinal.
“It’s all we talk about. We want this so bad,” said junior forward Kyiev Bennermon. “Once coach said, ‘Do you want to go to Binghamton or do you want to be home?’ that’s when we turn that switch on and go all out.”
The Spartans have won 20 their last 21, and will play Section 11’s Center Moriches on Saturday at Suffolk Community College’s Selden campus in the Class B regional final.
“I have a lot of faith in us,” said senior Camron Abalos, who led the Spartans with 23 points against Pleasantville. “We’ve been playing together really well. We just have to keep that up. I think we can definitely do it.”
To advance, the Spartans had to rally.
Spackenkill trailed for most of the first half, falling behind 16-8 at the end of the first quarter. The Spartan’s struggles were evidenced by a 1 for 9 showing from behind the free-throw line in the first frame. But, sophomore guard Dhyquem Lewinson capped a comeback, and scored on a put-back to give the Spartans their first lead — a 26-25 edge — right before halftime. Spackenkill was energized from there and pulled away.
It helped that the Spartans improved on defense, holding the Panthers to 13 points in the third and 12 in the fourth.
“Coach (Bell) said we had to tighten up on defense and get on their shooters,” Abalos said. “We did those things and ended up scoring points.”
The Spartans spread the ball around, too, making 14 second-half assists. Abalos handed out half of them.
Tucker Lee had 15 points and Hayden Peek added 12 points behind Abalos. Ezequiel De La Cruz had 10. Bennermon finished with seven.
“We never put our heads down,” Bennermon added. “We just came together and turned up.”
Pleasantville was led by Nick Salzarulo, who scored 20 points. Mike Manley and Charlie McPhee each poured in six for the Panthers.
“We talked at halftime — sharing the ball, trusting in each other,” Bell said. “We have five kids out here who can all score, and guys starting hitting shots.”
A.J. Martelli: email@example.com, 845-437-4836, Twitter: @AJM_PoJoSports