The blood was still trickling from beneath a bandage and stitches above Jack Daly’s right eye, the result of a fourth-quarter head-to-head collision.
He didn’t mind it at all.
Daly had just scored 12 of his 20 points in the fourth, and his top-seeded Eastchester Eagles had clinched a second straight trip to the County Center with a 58-39 win over Byram Hills in the Section 1 Class A basketball quarterfinals Wednesday night.
The Eagles last winter made their first County Center appearance since 1974, losing in the semifinal to eventual champ Poughkeepsie. This time it’s different.
“Last year at this time it was a great thing to get to the County Center,” Daly said. “For us right now, we want to take this as no surprise really. We wanted to get back there. We knew it was going to be really hard, but we took it one game at a time and now we’re blessed to be there.”
Eastchester will play Harrison in the Class A semifinal Wednesday at the County Center. The Class A championship game is set for March 1.
It’s probably not too early to mention, the Eagles haven’t won a Section 1 boys hoops title since 1955, and Harrison last won one in 1958.
These Eagles go in this time as the favorites, 18-2, with one of the area’s best offensive attacks. They returned to the County Center for the Slam Dunk early this season, and as Daly noted, they’re now 0-3 on that floor.
“I hope that bodes well for us this time,” he said with a smile.
The experience sure can’t hurt.
“Last year was the first time in 40 years,” Eagles coach Fred DiCarlo said. “We put a lot of work into this year, getting a tough schedule and being challenged with the expectation that we’ll be ready for playoffs.
“Harrison’s a tough team and had a great year. We’re looking forward to the challenge. We’ll see when we get there.”
Byram Hills had made three consecutive trips to the County Center, winning the title in 2011, losing to eventual champ Tappan Zee in the 2012 semifinal, and losing to Poughkeepsie in the championship game in 2013.
“It’s been a great run, but the future’s bright as well,” Byram Hills coach Ted Repa said. “I’m looking forward to what’s coming back. We’re going to miss these seniors who’ve obviously been part of a few special seasons.”
Daly led all scorers with his 20, including a big three-point play and nine free throws made in the fourth. Benny Dimirco had 14, including a dagger of a four-point play in the third, and Mike Milo 16. Mike Giacomo led Byram Hills with 16 points. The Bobcats’ Andrew Groll, who became ill in the fourth, finished with 10 points and 10 rebounds, and Chad Freidberg had eight to go with 12 rebounds.
Byram Hills was strong on the boards, and tried to slow down the high-powered Eastchester offense, and trailed by 17-13 after one. But the Eagles ended the first with six straight points to start a 15-2 run. The Bobcats, who trailed 25-13 at that point, cut it to 28-21 before Eastchester quickly ran off six momentum-stopping points to finish the half with a 34-21 lead.
“We broke down their zone really well,” Dimirco said. “We didn’t score as much as usual. We’re a high-tempo team. We knew they were going to try to slow us down, but we stuck to our game plan and we executed really well.”