WHITE PLAINS – There was no mincing words when Putnam Valley entered the locker room at the County Center during halftime of Wednesday’s Class B semifinal against Blind Brook.
The second-seeded Tigers, widely regarded as the favorite, were trailing by a point. And in a room filled with seniors, it didn’t take long for someone to speak up.
“We really just thought about it and we were like, ‘How are we going to let a No. 3 seed take this away from us?’ ” forward Joe Spinola said. “We’re not going to let anyone take the gold ball away from us, so we were like, ‘All right, we’ve got to keep pushing and play as hard as we can.’ No matter what the outcome was, we just kept pushing and pushing, and then we got the lead. I knew once we took the lead, it was over.”
Put Valley scored the first points of the second half and never looked back, coming away with a 48-39 win to earn its second trip to the finals in three years.
After shooting a dismal 30 percent (6 for 20) in the first half, the Tigers caught fire and shot 61 percent (11 for 18) in the second half.
“Our coach (Mike McDonnell) said, ‘Get the ball inside,’ and we just pounded it in,” guard Harrison Deegan said. “That created open looks for guards and we just hit our shots.”
Wednesday marked Putnam Valley’s fourth consecutive semifinals appearance, but the Tigers have yet to win a Section 1 title in that span. That’s a fact that this year’s team is well aware of, especially with a starting five that features all seniors.
They’ll play No. 1 Briarcliff in the Class B final on Saturday at 7 p.m. And if you ask the Tigers, they welcome another shot at Briarcliff, which beat Put Valley 54-48 on Jan. 7.
“We’re looking forward to it,” Spinola said. “We have two losses this year — Briarcliff and Brewster, but we believe we should be undefeated. We want revenge on Briarcliff, and we hope they win (against Woodlands).”
Player of the game: Harrison Deegan, Putnam Valley — The senior guard led all scorers with 18 points while shooting 7 of 11 from the field, including making 3 of 4 attempts from beyond the arc.
Turning point: The Tigers clearly made some adjustments at the half. Not only did their shots start falling in the third quarter, when they outscored the Trojans 15-6, but their defense also tightened up.
“Defense always wins championships,” Spinola said. “We knew what was coming and we knew their key players. We just held them down.”
Stat line: Putnam Valley (21-2) — Deegan had 18 points, Spinola had 13 to go with seven rebounds and Anders Spittal added 11 points and four rebounds. Blind Brook (18-5) — Jake DiGiansante had 14 points and Austin Lavitt had 10.
Quotable: “Since our freshman year when we saw them go (to the County Center), that was our goal from the very beginning,” Deegan said. “Coming into this year, we put in so much work expecting to get here. Now that we’re there, it’s great. We think we can do it, so we’re just going to go out and give it our all.”