BEDFORD HILLS – If there were any lingering nerves or second-guessing of themselves, Fox Lane and Sean New quickly forgot. On the first possession Saturday, in a stuffy, anxious home gym, New, a senior, swished the game’s first shot. What resulted was an opening run that was also the perfect elixir.
Considering this was a team that lost this game on its home floor as the higher seed each of the last two years, the start was a soothing one. The second-seeded Foxes ended up scoring the first 13 points and went on to rout No. 7 New Rochelle, 78-45, in the Class AA quarterfinals.
“Everybody was just full of energy coming into it,” Fox Lane senior Matt Redhead said. “Once Sean hit that first shot, the train just started rolling and there was no stopping us from there.”
And especially not New Rochelle. The Foxes built their lead to 19 before the Huguenots ever gained traction. Although they made up some ground, Fox Lane ended the first half stronger. Redhead converted a three-point play and Jamal Jackson-Blake beat the halftime buzzer to give their team a 40-21 lead.
“I think that hurt their morale a little bit,” coach Mike Tomassi said. “They were giving everything they had and hoping they could close the gap but they weren’t able to.”
The Foxes ran away to hide in the second half behind New (20 points), Redhead (18 points, 11 rebounds), Jackson-Blake (15 points) and senior Alex Olsen (15 points, 13 rebounds).
They considered their 33-point margin of victory a rebuttal to the many who expected them to fall short.
“We’ve been embarrassed at home two years in a row and we just decided that we weren’t going to let that happen this year,” Olsen said. “Everybody picked us to lose. We knew we had to come out with a vengeance today.”
Fox Lane, which will meet New Rochelle’s league rival, No. 11 White Plains, at 5 p.m. in Friday’s semifinals, will appear at the County Center for the first time in four years and just the second time since Tomassi was a sophomore point guard on the 2004 Class A champs.
“(This is) 10 times better as a coach,” said Tomassi, who graduated in 2006. “I wouldn’t trade this for the world. I’m so happy they’ve gotten to experience this as players.”
The moment also proved doubly satisfying for Redhead. The 6-foot-5 senior was a much different player than in last year’s quarterfinal loss at home to Clarkstown South. He played that game with undiagnosed diabetes after having dropped 30 pounds over the course of the season.
Redhead went to the hospital the day after that game and has since regained all the weight he lost. He has also learned to manage his disease and maximize his energy.
“Coming out here, I just felt so much more energetic and knew that this time was going to be different,” Redhead said. “And we jumped on them right from the start.”