On paper, the Nyack-Tappan Zee boys basketball game seemed like an even match with both teams entering the game at 6-5.
But for the first half it didn’t seem that way, didn’t seem like Terrence McNair had read the paper.
The senior’s 17 first-half points staked the Indians to a 14-point lead and, while Tappan Zee made it interesting, McNair’s squad held on, ultimately winning 51-42.
McNair was the game’s high scorer with 23.
The visiting Dutchmen mounted a second-half comeback that saw them twice pull within three — at 33-30, as their big man, Eric Casey, hit from the inside with 1:08 left in the third quarter, and again at 40-37 with 4:12 left in the game on two Casey free throws.
Casey, who was largely quiet in the first half, finished with 13 points, as the Dutchmen attacked the inside — Nyack’s soft spot, according to Indians coach Ethan Smith.
Smith and McNair credited Tappan Zee coach George Gaine for having his squad go hard inside in the second half.
“We played solid defense in the first half but our one weakness right now is play on the inside,” said Smith, who responded by having his team employ a zone press on Tappan Zee’s guards so they simply couldn’t see to pass inside
“I think just our intensity and defense at the end really helped us out. We were just trying our hardest to box them out,” said senior forward Dashawn Rodriguez (five points), whose inside “D” helped limit the damage from Casey.
While McNair wasn’t nearly as dominate in the second half, his 3-point buzzer-beater to end the third quarter gave the Indians a 37-30 lead.
Maybe just as big, though, was his defensive rebound — one of his 10 rebounds — with 2:23 left and his squad hanging on by three.
A half a minute later, that lead expanded to five as McNair fed Rodriguez for two.
McNair, a Nyack resident who played for St. Joseph’s in New Jersey before transferring back to Nyack due to financial reasons after last year’s season, said he anticipated Tappan Zee making adjustments and a second-half run.
“We had to play through and that’s what we did,” said McNair, who showed off his jumping skills, converting Jannai Henry’s first-half alley-oop pass.
Henry had seven big points in the fourth quarter, five of them on free throws as Tappan Zee began fouling with the clock winding down.
Joe Letizia had eight points and Ryan McWilliams, who was strong on the inside, had six for the Dutchmen.
“He’s a special player. When he turns it on, he’s very, very athletic,” said Smith, who said he wants to see McNair play at a high level all the time.