SPRING VALLEY – There were times when even C.J. Layne wasn’t sure what to expect. First, the senior missed the first eight games with a broken wrist. Then, when he returned in January, he had to regain his lost form during a season already in progress.
“I was scared about my performance — if I was going to help the team, hurt the team — but I came back and worked my butt off,” Layne said. “I got my spot back, and the rest is history.”
And for the Tigers, it really is. They ended a nine-year drought Saturday behind 34 points from Layne. He was locked in throughout No. 11 White Plains’ 85-78 Class AA quarterfinal victory at No. 3 Spring Valley that will send the Tigers back to the County Center for the first time since 2007.
“He’s been better than advertised,” White Plains coach Spencer Mayfield said after his team won its fourth straight, including two playoff games on the road in Rockland County. “You can usually mark him down for four or five 3s, but he’s had games of seven or eight. He’s improved defensively and moved the ball better. He’s had 12 super games.”
On Saturday, Layne sank 7 of 14 3-pointers and finished 12 for 20 from the floor for the game. He was integral as the Tigers built a double-digit lead in the first half and as Spring Valley rallied to pull within range.
Senior Luis Cartagena also scored 28 points for White Plains on the strength of 17-of-18 shooting at the foul line. That included a perfect 12 for 12 in the second half.
Cartagena’s 17 free throws broke a single-game school record and helped clinch the Tigers a berth in Friday’s 5 p.m. semifinal against No. 2 Fox Lane. Their nine-year gap between County Center appearances is the longest in program history, according to school historian Don Gano. The County Center began hosting sectional playoff games in 1933.
To get there, White Plains needed plenty of assistance from Lamar Noel, who scored 13 second-half points, and Matt Scott, who hit a couple run-stopping baskets and played strong defense against Spring Valley star Marc Dorsainvil.
On offense, White Plains’ game plan became obvious. The players knew who needed the ball.
“I tell the whole team to set screens for C.J. and let him come off them and let it fly,” Cartagena said. “When he hits one or two shots, I just want to keep feeding him the ball.”
Dorsainvil and senior Jy’Quan Boykin each had 19 points to lead Spring Valley (16-6). Junior Michael Maynes had 16 points and 11 rebounds and hit a 3-pointer to cut the deficit to four points with a little over a minute remaining. Sophomore Mavenson Therneus actually blocked a shot on the ensuing possession, but the Tigers turned the ball over and then Cartagena went 4 of 4 at the line to ice it.
White Plains’ four-game winning streak is its longest all season. Prior to the playoffs, the Tigers hadn’t won or lost more than two straight, but they’ve found another level of play.
“Their composure was good. I told them, that’s the type of game we would’ve thrown away last year,” Mayfield said. “We really finished. When I was talking to them during timeouts, they had a look in their eyes like, ‘Coach, we’ve got this.’ “