With New Rochelle, Poughkeepsie, Our Lady of Lourdes and Palisade Prep eliminated, and Martin Luther King Jr. having moved to Class C, Section 1 will have five new boys basketball champions in 2014. Here’s how this season’s semifinalists stack up:
2013 champ: New Rochelle. The Huguenots stunned seven-time champ Mount Vernon at the buzzer, but the Knights ended their title defense in the quarterfinals.
Favorite: Mount Vernon. The Knights’ only loss came against nationally ranked White Station (Memphis, Tenn.).
Dark horse: Clarkstown South. Undersized but long on experience, the Vikings have never won a Section 1 boys basketball championship.
Game to watch: Clarkstown South vs. Spring Valley, semifinals. These teams split during the regular season, each winning on the other’s home court. What a venue and what a time to settle the season series.
Championship pick: Mount Vernon over Spring Valley. Experience, toughness and defense will be keys for the Knights because Spring Valley might have the more gifted team.
MVP pick: Brandon Martin, Mount Vernon
No. 1 Mount Vernon (18-1)
Coach: Bob Cimmino
Key players: Brandon Martin (6-3), Sr., F; Devonte Banner (6-2), Sr., G; Judah Alexander (6-5), Sr., F.
X-factor: Shooting. If the Knights hit even a few jumpers, just ship the gold ball to California Road.
No. 2 Clarkstown South (19-1)
Coach: Matt Backs
Key players: Joe Zayer (5-11), Sr., G; Conor McGuinness (5-9), Jr., PG; Kevin Martinez (6-1), Sr., F.
X-factor: Avoiding foul trouble. Zayer and Martinez have been foul-prone. They are too important to let that happen on a team that lacks depth.
No. 5 Mahopac (17-3)
Coach: Kevin Downes
Key players: Ryan Simone (6-5), Sr., F; R.J. Martinez (6-2), Sr., G; Glen Janik (5-10), Sr., G.
X-factor: Protecting the ball. If the Indians can avoid turnovers, they can take advantage of matchups with Simone and Martinez, one of the section’s best tandems.
No. 6 Spring Valley (16-4)
Coach: Willie Worsley
Key players: Kai Mitchell (6-5), Jr., F; Rickey McGill (6-0), Jr., G; Jordan Duncan (6-5), Sr., F.
X-factor: Defensive intensity. If the Tigers are as committed defensively as they showed in the quarterfinals against White Plains, they will be hard to beat.
2013 champ: Poughkeepsie. Tappan Zee bounced the young Pioneers in the first round to end their final season in Section 1.
Favorite: Eastchester. The uptempo Eagles beat New Rochelle and Kingston, the defending Class AA champs in Sections 1 and 9.
Dark horse: Harrison. The Huskies have not reached the County Center since 1968 and haven’t won it all since a decade before that.
Game to watch: Eastchester vs. Panas, final. If the matchup comes to fruition, Panas might be the only team with enough length and athleticism to give the favorite fits.
Championship pick: Eastchester over Panas. The Eagles aren’t a paper favorite. They earned it.
MVP pick: Jack Daly, Eastchester
No. 1 Eastchester (18-2)
Coach: Fred DiCarlo
Key players: Jack Daly (6-2), Sr., PG; Benny DiMirco (5-8), So., G; Mike Milo (6-2), Sr., F.
X-factor: Nick Campana. When the senior’s shot is on, the Eagles are at their best.
No. 2 Panas (16-4)
Coach: Shawn Sullivan
Key players: Timmy McCauley (5-10), Sr., PG; Tyler Mason (6-3), Sr., F; Tom Parrish (5-10), Sr., G.
X-factor: McCauley. When he’s at his best, he’s one of the section’s top point guards and the Panthers can play with just about anyone.
No. 4 Harrison (16-4)
Coach: Gary Chiarella
Key players: Matt Stein (5-11), Sr., G; Nick Esposito (5-11), Sr., G; Coby Lefkowitz (6-4), Sr., F.
X-factor: Nerves. The Huskies can’t allow the moment to overwhelm them against hungry Eastchester.
No. 6 Tappan Zee (18-3)
Coach: George Gaine
Key players: Luke McLaughlin (6-5), Jr., F; Ryan McWilliams (6-3), Sr., F; Phil Powers (5-10), Sr., G.
X-factor: Protecting the ball. The veteran Dutchmen have struggled closing games late in the season due to turnovers. Few teams execute better when they don’t turn it over.
2013 champ: Our Lady of Lourdes. The Warriors moved up to Class A and lost to Tappan Zee in the quarterfinals.
Favorite: Woodlands. Close call, but the Falcons beat preseason favorite Putnam Valley by 16 back in December.
Dark horse: Rye Neck. A late 3-pointer by Chris Cascione got the Panthers here. Strong senior leadership could help them take advantage.
Game to watch: Woodlands vs. Putnam Valley, final. The Tigers have waited more than two months for this rematch, but will have to beat top-seeded Irvington first.
Championship pick: Woodlands over Putnam Valley. What separates the Falcons is their balance. All five starters can score in double figures, making them a nightmare to contain.
MVP pick: Jamil Gambari, Woodlands
No. 1 Irvington (18-1)
Coach: Mike Auerbach
Key players: Mike Macchia (6-3), Sr., F; Kevin Tierney (6-3), Sr., F; Jon Goldreich (6-1), Sr., G/F.
X-factor: Transition defense. The Bulldogs will have to retreat quickly because Putnam Valley is at its best creating offense in transition.
No. 4 Putnam Valley (17-3)
Coach: Mike McDonnell
Key players: Zach Coleman (6-2), Sr., G; Jelani Bell-Isaac (6-4), Sr., C; Ryan Basso (5-11), Jr., G.
X-factor: Avoiding foul trouble. Putnam Valley’s starting five is strong, but Bell-Isaac in particular has to stay on the floor.
No. 6 Woodlands (15-5)
Coach: Bob Murphy
Key players: Jamil Gambari (6-2), Jr., F; Abdoulaye Sow (5-11), Sr., G; Ross Joseph (6-1), Jr., G/F.
X-factor: Gambari. As Murphy often says, when Gambari’s at his best, so is Woodlands.
No. 7 Rye Neck (16-4)
Coach: Shawn Lincoln
Key players: Matt Franks (6-5), Sr., F; Chris Pennell (5-11), Sr., G; Chris Cascione (6-1), Sr., G.
X-factor: Team defense. Rye Neck can’t afford any defensive lapses against an opponent as relentless as Woodlands.
2013 champ: Palisade Prep. The Phoenix moved up to Class B and lost in the quarterfinals to Woodlands.
Favorite: None. Any of the four could claim the mantle, with a slight edge to the Hamilton-Haldane winner.
Dark horse: Tuckahoe. The undersized Tigers needed a 13-point rally in the final three minutes just to advance to the County Center.
Game to watch: Hamilton vs. Haldane, semifinals. Haldane has guards taller than Hamilton’s forwards, but the Red Raiders can fly.
Championship pick: Hamilton over Tuckahoe. Even with its lack of size, Hamilton should thrive in the open court at the County Center.
MVP pick: Eli Sierra, Hamilton
No. 1 Martin Luther King Jr. (11-5)
Coach: Scott Green
Key players: Dashawn Johnson (6-3), Sr., F; Daquan Campbell (6-2), Fr., F; Chris Sanchez (5-7), Jr., G.
X-factor: Finishing strong. The Tigers nearly let their regular-season game against Tuckahoe slip away before winning 47-45.
No. 2 Hamilton (10-8)
Coach: Keith Wright
Key players: Eli Sierra (6-1), Sr., G; Jaleel Barr (6-1), Jr., G; Craig Brown (5-11), Sr., G.
X-factor: Rebounding. With no players taller than 6-1, Hamilton will need to clean the glass collectively.
No. 3 Haldane (12-6)
Coach: Joe Virgadamo
Key players: Peter Hoffmann (6-4), Jr., G/F; Michael Halpin (6-3), Sr, G/F; Garrett Quigley (6-4), Jr. G.
X-factor: Taking advantage of size. Haldane’s biggest players are among its most skilled, and the Blue Devils should have an advantage in the paint against this Class C field.
No. 5 Tuckahoe (8-11)
Coach: Al Visconti
Key players: Max Pearce (6-0), Sr., G; Mo Hollis (5-11), Sr., G; Rami Higgins (6-2), Sr., F.
X-factor: Pushing the tempo. Tuckahoe wants to play faster, higher-scoring games. The Tigers won’t advance if the tempo grinds to a halt.
2013 champ: Martin Luther King Jr. MLK advanced to the state final last year, but is now a Class C contender.
Favorite: Biondi. The Lions have plenty of County Center experience, led by all-state senior Johnnie Gray.
Dark horse: Clark Academy. Clark is much more formidable after losing by 38 points last year to MLK.
Game to watch: Biondi vs. Clark. They are the only teams in the field.
Championship pick: Biondi over Clark. It should be close, but Biondi’s athleticism and experience give last year’s runner-up the edge.
MVP pick: Johnnie Gray, Biondi
No. 1 Biondi (6-11)
Coach: Bob Delle Bovi
Key players: Johnnie Gray (6-1), Sr., G; Shaquan Houston (5-11), Sr., G; Trevor Toney (6-4), Jr., F.
X-factor: Houston and Toney. Houston is the team’s best defender and second-leading scorer. Toney is raw, but his shot-blocking is key.
No. 2 Clark Academy (6-12)
Coach: Anthony Gaines
Key players: Calvin Walters (6-1), Sr., F; Andre Carthorn (6-0), So., PG; Shane McCalla (6-3), So., C.
X-factor: Pressure defense. Clark likes to play uptempo on offense, but that starts when its defense forces mistakes.