BRIARCLIFF MANOR – Neither Briarcliff nor Putnam Valley wanted to make too much out of its game — not a non-league contest just a week into January. The players and coaches seemed well aware that the one they truly want won’t be played until the end of next month.
Even so, the Bears proved Thursday they might be Class B’s best — for now at least. They beat the visiting Tigers 54-48 behind 18 points from senior Josiah Cobbs and strong execution in the closing minutes.
“We’re the best in Class B right now. We can say that much,” Cobbs said. “We’ll definitely see them again in the County Center sometime, or sometime in the playoffs. But we’re definitely going to see them again.”
That seemed like a reality even before Thursday’s meeting, and what happened only further enforced it.
After falling into an early 9-2 hole, Putnam Valley rallied to make it a one-possession game on several occasions, but Briarcliff kept responding. First, it was the presence of 6-foot-5 senior Sean Crowley, but later it was Cobbs, who became more aggressive as the defense sunk in on his big man.
“I saw that they were really attacking the paint and not allowing me to make that pass easily,” Cobbs said. “Toward the second half, I tried to attack more and try to find other ways we could play.”
Putnam Valley cut a 47-37 deficit to 51-48 and then Charlie Pagani drew a charge with 1:02 to play. Teammate Harrison Deegan missed a tough 3-pointer to tie on the ensuing possession. Freshman Jack Ryan and Cobbs then each hit clutch free throws in the final seconds.
Player of the game: Josiah Cobbs, Briarcliff. With lanes opening because of the attention drawn by Crowley, Cobbs became more aggressive in the second half. It is a role he has grown into after serving as a reserve on last year’s Class B finalist.
“Last year he had about 10-12 practices where he was the best player on the floor,” Bears coach Cody Moffett said. “During the games, it didn’t always translate. Now that he’s getting that confidence going and getting more reps, he’s doing really well for us so far.”
Stat line: Crowley scored 12 points, including eight in the first half. Ryan ended up with eight and Jack Reish added seven before fouling out in the fourth quarter. … Deegan led Putnam Valley with 13 points and Anders Spittal and Joe Spinola added 11 apiece. Spinola fouled out with 5:48 to play.
Quotable: “There’s a possibility that we’ll see them in a different place where it really matters. This isn’t the County Center. This isn’t a league title,” Putnam Valley coach Mike McDonnell said. “We don’t take it for granted, and we have some work to do, but I was happy with the effort.”