The moment had finally arrived. No longer did Spring Valley have the luxury of time. Down 11 points to White Plains at halftime, the Tigers couldn’t wait for another day. If they were going to realize their vast potential, it had to happen now.
“Reality started kicking in,” junior big man Jordan Duncan said. “We really needed to get this win. We were behind, so we had to start playing harder.”
Spring Valley, the No. 6 seed, played harder and with force. The 6-foot-5 tandem of Duncan and Kai Mitchell pounded No. 3 White Plains inside, and junior guard Rickey McGill delivered clutch plays in the final minutes of a heart-stopping 69-66 win in Thursday’s Class AA quarterfinals.
The Tigers (16-4) will play No. 2 Clarkstown South on Thursday, Feb. 27, at 4:45 p.m. in the semifinals.
“It was just to get to the County Center. That was racing through my mind the whole game,” said Duncan, who had 16 points and 10 rebounds. “I just needed to get there. It’s my first time there, so I’m excited.”
Spring Valley showed its passion in the key third quarter: Led by eight Duncan points, the Tigers reeled off a 23-4 run to take a 53-45 lead into the fourth.
But White Plains regained the lead with freshman Jordan Tucker (19 points) and senior Mike DeMello (16 points, eight assists) hitting clutch shots. DeMello set up Rexler Noel for a go-ahead basket with 1:20 remaining. Mitchell made 1 of 2 free throws and then McGill hit a pair with 36.7 seconds left to make it 67-66.
“That was a lot of pressure,” said McGill, who finished with 18 points. “The crowd was going wild; I couldn’t hear anything. I just wanted the ball to go in.”
After a timeout, White Plains’ set play was interrupted by a deflection. The ball ended up in the hands of Chris Jordan, who shot a floater as he was met in the lane by Mitchell. The ball bounded off the backboard to Mitchell, who threw an outlet to McGill for a layup with about two seconds left.
White Plains never attempted a final shot, ending a season of promise at 16-4.
“It’s tough to see it end like that because you want so much for them,” coach Spencer Mayfield said. “The seven seniors were fun to work with every single day.”
Spring Valley’s junior trio of Duncan, McGill and Mitchell all delivered. Mitchell finished with team highs of 21 points, 13 rebounds and five assists.
“In the first half they stuck it to us, but I think Kai and Rickey and Jordan stepped up and were the leaders they can be,” coach Willie Worsley said.