The Putnam Valley basketball program began in 2002, so it has been privy to neighboring Peekskill’s run of dominance in Section 1 and beyond.
That’s why Wednesday meant so much to the Tigers, who pumped fists and exchanged high-fives as if this cold January night was actually March at a pulsating County Center.
In Putnam Valley’s 12th season of varsity existence, the Class B contender finished strong to beat Peekskill for the first time, 58-54. Senior Zach Coleman had 21 points and classmate Jelani Bell-Isaac had 10 points and 14 rebounds.
“It’s definitely the biggest win we’ve ever had,” said Bell-Isaac, who also blocked four shots and scored a key basket on a long inbound lob from Zack Nolan with about 40 seconds to play. “We started off the season knowing we had them on our schedule. We knew we were going to play them twice, so getting the win here feels great.”
Putnam Valley’s defense allowed just seven points in the third quarter to a streaky Peekskill team playing without coach Lou Panzanaro. Assistant Tim Turner coached instead and said he had “no clue” why Panzanaro was absent. Panzanaro could not be reached for comment.
Peekskill (7-5) also played without senior Morgan Jackson, a key reserve off the bench.
“I don’t know where coach was,” Turner said. “I know I was called (by Panzanaro) at the last minute and they asked me to fill in for today.”
The Tigers (13-1) took control in the third quarter, although Peekskill twice tied it in the fourth quarter on baskets by seniors Musheed Muhammad and Neorck Brown (17 points). But Bell-Isaac scored a pair of key hoops late on assists by Nolan (five assists), and Coleman hit a pair of clutch free throws after the Red Devils failed to execute down the stretch.
Putnam Valley believes beating Peekskill could be a sign it can contend in Class B. The Tigers have rebounded since losing at home by 16 points to past and future foe Woodlands last month.
“They beat Woodlands and Woodlands beat us,” Coleman said. “Now, we’re going to try to take the chip (championship) from Woodlands.”