WHITE PLAINS – With four senior starters and length throughout its starting lineup, Red Hook had two things Byram Hills did not: Experience and size.
“They were a big, physical, senior-dominated team,” Bobcats coach Ted Repa said. “That was my biggest concern, their physicality and their experience.”
Those fears quickly disappeared Tuesday night as Repa’s young team proved up to both challenges. Byram Hills outrebounded Red Hook by 11 and throttled the Section 9 champ down the stretch, winning their Class A state regional semifinal 53-45 at the County Center.
“I think after we won that gold ball, we took that collective sigh of relief,” Repa said. “It was like, the pressure is off and now we’re going to have some fun. Sometimes you have your better performances like that.”
Byram Hills (20-5) will travel to SUNY Cortland at 6:30 Saturday night to meet Section 4’s Johnson City (17-3) in the regional final.
Matt Groll was probably the biggest reason why, both literally and figuratively. The 6-foot-7 junior had 11 points and finished with a game-high 15 rebounds, leading a 32-21 rebounding advantage for the Bobcats.
“I think we have some tough guys. We’re tougher than we look,” Groll said. “Lou Filippelli, Jared Friedberg, me — we all stay tough on the glass defensively and offensively and we stuck with it the whole game.”
The margin was tight throughout. It was knotted 22-22 at halftime, but Byram Hills started to build its cushion late in the third quarter. Freshman Willy Samsen came off the bench and drilled a 3-pointer at the shot-clock buzzer and later found Filippelli for a layup that gave the Bobcats a 34-27 edge.
Liam Nowlin scored with 5:22 left in the fourth quarter to increase his team’s lead to 40-28 before a mini-run got Red Hook (18-6) back within five. Filippelli cooled the run, then Skylar Sinon, who scored a team-high 13, beat the press for two late layups to end the threat.
Byram Hills held Red Hook to 37 percent shooting and eliminated the inside threat by forcing the Raiders to fire from outside. The Bobcats mostly played a matchup zone, and it was effective; Red Hook shot 1 for 12 from 3-point land.
“We saw the film of them against Poughkeepsie and we weren’t too afraid of their jump shots,” Repa said. “We thought we had a good game plan against them with the matchup.”
Colin Bemis hit Red Hook’s lone 3 and scored a team-high 14. Star Dennis Hare added 11 on 4-of-14 shooting.
“We made sure we didn’t give them any good looks,” Groll said. “We figured if we give them nothing for free, we’d be fine.”