ARMONK – Deep in the heart of a tough stretch of league games, Tappan Zee and its fans can bring an unmatched intensity to local basketball. The Dutchmen and their faithful, the Crazees, brought that edge to Byram Hills Saturday night, celebrating afterward like they just stopped Pearl River or Nanuet to win at the buzzer.
“We wanted to come in here and test ourselves,” Tappan Zee senior Robert McWilliams said. “We know we might see them down the road, so we really wanted to play them as hard as we could. I think we did that tonight.”
McWilliams and his teammates made their intentions clear, defeating the hosts 63-55 in the final to win Byram Hills’ season-opening tournament.
The 6-foot-3 senior scored 24 points and grabbed eight rebounds. He hit some shots along the way that left the Bobcats shaking their heads, including a tough pull-up jumper after Tappan Zee’s double-digit lead had been whittled to 57-51 points with less than a minute to play.
“He makes the shots that, as a defense, you want him to take and that’s very demoralizing,” Byram Hills coach Ted Repa said. “Particularly when we got it to a two-possession game, he hit that pull-up on the baseline. It was a great shot.”
McWilliams hit three of them from behind the arc in the first quarter and had 16 points by halftime. The Dutchmen (3-0) led 41-26 at the break despite big man Victor Clervil and starting guard Ryan Holder sitting with foul trouble. Junior forward Kevin Lynch and junior guard Kieran Gibson provided support early, but the Tappan Zee offense went cold in the third quarter.
Byram Hills (1-1), which played most of the first half without junior big man Matt Groll, found its rhythm as Groll played through the second half with three fouls. The defense held the Dutchmen to just four points in the third and sophomore Skylar Sinon hit key 3-pointers down the stretch to shave the lead.
Player of the game: Robert McWilliams, Tappan Zee. In addition to his 24 points, McWilliams played a key role as a ball-handler and defender for the Dutchmen. His impact was felt everywhere; he even fouled out Byram Hills senior Jared Friedberg, who was the primary defender guarding him.
Stat line: Clervil had 15 points, seven rebounds and three blocks despite sitting the entire second quarter. … Lynch contributed nine points, seven rebounds and three assists. Gibson had 11 points, including three 3-pointers. … Sinon scored a team-high 21. Groll and senior Matt Milone each added 12 points. Groll had seven rebounds and Milone had four and also four assists.
Quotable: “I think people sometimes think we’re a two-trick pony. I’m really trying to implore these guys to step up and I thought Kevin Lynch did a great job today,” Tappan Zee coach George Gaine said. “I’ve been hard on Kevin. For him to step up in this environment, it was great.”