County Center preview: Section 1 boys basketball

County Center preview: Section 1 boys basketball


County Center preview: Section 1 boys basketball


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:

Class AA

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

Team profiles

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.

Class A

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

Team profiles

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.

Class B

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

Team profiles

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.

Class C

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

Team profiles

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.

Class D

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

Team profiles

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.


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