Briarcliff High’s boys basketball team wants to make defense its calling card.
“Defense is the biggest part of our game,” forward/center Brian Daniels said. “If we don’t have defense, we can score with any team, but it would just be scoring back and forth. If we get stops we’ll be able to pour it on.”
That’s exactly what the 5-0 Bears did to archrival Pleasantville in a 71-49 victory Friday night at Pace University.
Briarcliff thus won the Lt. Charles Garbarini Memorial trophy, in honor of the Pleasantville FDNY hero who gave his life on Sept. 11, 2001.
Daniels finished with a team-leading 18 points, but he had just six in the first half when he absorbed charges and defended.
“If the rest of my teammates are hitting jump shots, I don’t have a problem with that,” he said. “I just cheer them up.”
There was plenty to cheer about. With versatile guard Ryan Huegel in early foul trouble, Jared Jones manned the point and scored 10 of his 12 points in the first half, when the Bears hit seven 3-pointers, including two each by Alquan Philip, Jackson Wexler and Jones, for a 35-18 lead.
“It’s a nightmare when we lose him,” Bears coach Brendan Coxen said. “But we had guys step up. We’re not the deepest team; that’s known. So when we get in foul trouble we need guys to step up. Jared stepped up and handled the ball extremely well … made great decisions and took over running the team. We work him at point-center. He plays every position for us. He does the dirty work.”
What they did at the other end was to hold 4-3 Pleasantville’s Jack Eisenberg to eight first-half points, six of those on free throws. Eisenberg got loose in the second half and finished with a game-high 27 points.
“We missed about 22 layups today,” Panthers coach Chris Welsh said. “Twenty-two layups. And we just didn’t show enough heart tonight.
“It’s tough when you come in and it’s a rivalry game in a big gym with a lot of people home for the holidays here to see you play. You come out, and nerves are understandable. Everybody has nerves. But I tell the kids all the time, the nerves need to be excited to win, not scared to lose. Tonight we were scared to lose, not ready to win.”
He tipped his hat to Briarcliff.
“It’s always good to beat your rivals and we beat them in a big way,” said Briarcliff’s Spencer Seabrook, who had 11 points and eight rebounds. “We played as a team. They play zone and we moved the ball around and knocked down a lot of 3s. (Usually) we like to get it into our big man, Brian Daniels, but we were clicking today.”
“That’s what we’re trying to do,” Coxen said. “I don’t think we’ve been that good defensively in the past. We’re trying to focus on the defensive end. We know we can shoot the ball, but if we can’t guard we’re not going to win any games. So that’s what we’re preaching. Defense has to be our bread and butter.”