Kevin Degnan issues the same rallying cry before each game. Maybe all Pearl River needed to respond was the right opponent, the right gym, the right crowd or the right moment. Whatever the formula, the Pirates found it early and often against Tappan Zee.
Pearl River built a 13-point lead after one quarter and routed the Dutchmen 60-37, ending a five-game losing streak in Rockland County’s most heated basketball rivalry and looking very much like a Class A contender in the process.
“I tell them before every game that we have a chance at winning it all,” said the Fairfield University-bound Degnan. “I thought tonight we played our best that we had played so far. I just think from now on, we can push forward and make a real run.”
If that run is what the Pirates (9-4) started Thursday night, they can point right to the first quarter. Led by Degnan and Tom Armour (12 points) and the rebounding of James Linnane, the starting five executed at will, hitting open jump shots en route to a 21-8 lead.
Pearl River showed equal dominance on defense. The hustle of Linnane and Jack Byrnes and the on-ball play of Chris Flood allowed the Pirates to beat Tappan Zee at its own game. They outhustled the visiting Dutchmen (11-3) so clearly, frustrated coach George Gaine picked up a technical before storming off at halftime, his team down 33-15.
“I think it shows that we can play at this level,” said Linnane, who finished with 12 points and 11 rebounds. “Everyone was scoring. I think it was a big jump for us. If we can continue this, we can be a really good team.”
Degnan provided an efficient 22 points and seven rebounds. He also swatted six shots, pushing the Dutchmen away from the rim. They scored just 22 points inside the 3-point line, eight of them on free throws.
“We hadn’t had a game where we really put everything together,” Pearl River coach Jerry Houston Jr. said. “I thought tonight we took a step in that direction.”
Junior Luke McLaughlin led Tappan Zee with 14 points.