HARRISON – When Robert McWilliams came home to Tappan Zee, this was, of course, the moment he envisioned. A crowd too nervous to sit, a berth to the County Center at stake, the offense running through his capable hands.
“Absolutely. I saw my brother (Ryan) in the same situation last year and I said, ‘How could I not be a part of this?’ ” McWilliams said. “I came back and we did it again. It’s a great feeling.”
The junior transfer from Bergen Catholic delivered in the clutch Tuesday night, scoring 20 of his 29 points in the fourth quarter as No. 5 Tappan Zee won its Class A quarterfinal at No. 4 Harrison, 67-59.
McWilliams’ monster fourth quarter earned the Dutchmen (15-5) a fifth trip to the County Center in six seasons — a fact that would’ve seemed unthinkable before their upset-fueled run to the 2010 championship. The only large-school program with more semifinal appearances in that time span is Mount Vernon.
“I tell them, culture does graduate if you allow it to,” said Tappan Zee coach George Gaine, whose team will play for its third gold ball in six years. “It does graduate if you don’t work hard in the offseason, if you don’t love each other. This game was won off the court.”
On it, the Dutchmen needed to regroup despite building a 36-22 halftime lead behind 14 points from senior Luke McLaughlin. Harrison’s pressure forced mistakes and the trio of Justin Stagg (15 points), Jack Hochman (15) and Zack Evans (13) led the Huskies to within two points, 43-41, heading to the fourth quarter.
That’s when McWilliams caught fire. Tappan Zee switched McWilliams into McLaughlin’s position on offense and ran him through the same plays that worked for McLaughlin in the first half. He scored six straight to open the fourth, added a pair of three-point plays and hit his final eight free throw attempts.
The Dutchmen also received 10 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks from junior Victor Clervil and six points from Dylan Kane, who drew the defensive assignment on Stagg, Harrison’s top outside shooter.
“The first half Luke gave us so much. The second half, I knew I had to help him out,” McWilliams said. “That’s what I tried to do and it worked out.”
Tappan Zee’s Victor Clervil, Robert McWilliams and Harrison’s Zach Evans all dive for a loose ball during the Section 1 Class A boys quarterfinal basketball game at Harrison High School Feb. 17, 2015. Tappan Zee defeated Harrison 67-59.
Tappan Zee will play top-seeded Spring Valley at 8:15 on Feb. 25 in the semifinals, thinking upset again. The Dutchmen lost both head-to-head meetings during the regular season, although one was in overtime at Spring Valley.
“It’s going to be fun. It’s fun every time we play them,” said McLaughlin, who had 18 points, 10 rebounds and five assists. “They have such great players. Hopefully, the third time’s a charm and we can get that upset.”
Byram Hills 50, Hen Hud 49: In a Class A quarterfinal at No. 3 Byram Hills, Matt Groll (6 points) scored the winning basket off an offensive rebound with 11 seconds left. Skylar Sinon (12 points, 7 rebounds) then blocked Hen Hud’s final shot attempt. Jeremy Morris hit two 3-pointers in the final 1:08 to give the Sailors a 49-48 lead prior to Groll’s winning basket. The Bobcats will play No. 2 Somers at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 25 in the semifinals at the County Center.
Spring Valley 67, Yorktown 45: In a Class A quarterfinal at No. 1 Spring Valley, Rickey McGill had 23 points and five assists and Marc Dorsainvil added 14 points and five steals. Mason Dyslin led Yorktown with 16 points and Nick DeGennaro added 10. The Tigers will play No. 5 Tappan Zee at 8:15 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 25 in the semifinals at the County Center.