More years than not since its last title in 2004, Fox Lane basketball sat squarely in the conversation of Section 1 contenders. Matt Redhead saw it firsthand the last three seasons and had a brother who was part of the program before him.
Now with the benefit of hindsight, the younger Redhead recognized why this postseason was different for a team that too often came a hair or two short of its ultimate goal.
“Even when I was a sophomore, I felt like we had enough talent to win the gold ball and it was the same feeling this year,” he said. “The difference between this year and that year is that we were working hard in the gym from the start. I think we’ve always had the talent. I just think it took that extra hunger and motivation.”
Led by the 6-foot-5 senior, Fox Lane finished a season that won’t soon be forgotten at the school: It upset Section 1 giant Mount Vernon to win the first Class AA championship in program history.
The Foxes evolved into a hardened group that played with an edge, thanks in large part to a strong core of seniors. None of them set that tone better than Redhead — hungry, motivated, healthy, and now The Journal News and lohud.com’s Westchester/Putnam player of the year.
Redhead averaged a team-best 15.0 points and 8.0 rebounds to go with 4.0 assists. He earned tournament MVP honors at the County Center and capped the 67-60 shocker over the state-title-hopeful Knights with a two-handed jam in the closing seconds.
When Fox Lane lost to Middletown in the regional final later that week, Redhead and his teammates quickly transitioned from a sense of disappointment to satisfaction, knowing they had accomplished something no one before them had.
“I think all of us — even a few hours after the game — when it was all said and done and we were saying goodbye, we realized that we had achieved a goal that nobody felt we could achieve,” he said.
Long before the team’s memorable finish, Redhead first had to learn what he could achieve individually. He had more to deal with as a senior than just juggling game and practices with schoolwork and college applications.
Redhead was diagnosed with diabetes in February 2015 after dropping 30 pounds in the span of two months. His body withered during the season, culminating in a quarterfinal loss at home to Clarkstown South when Redhead was completely sapped of energy.
He learned how to manage the disease and optimize his sugar levels for activity. He gained the weight back and regained his strength, and it resulted in a strong senior season for Redhead and his team, highlighted by a 22-4 record.
“I always felt like I was a little skeptical of how I’d feel playing a whole game and how I’d feel by the end,” Redhead said. “But I can’t really recall a game where I felt so drained from giving it my all, even that Mount Vernon game. Going into that fourth quarter, I felt as strong as I did all season.”
With a better understanding of his disease and hope for a brighter future, Redhead has committed to a year of prep school at Suffield Academy in Suffield, Connecticut. He will go with heightened expectations. Not only did he spend his final high school season monitoring sugar levels for the first time, he accomplished everything he did while also playing through a partially torn patella tendon.
Redhead, who suffered the injury last June, had surgery last week to repair his knee and will need at least three months of rehab before returning to the court. Yet it’s the confidence the southpaw forward gained as a senior that has brightened his outlook for the future.
“I’m definitely going to work in the offseason to get some more of my explosiveness back and work on my upper body and core strength,” he said. “I think I can improve it even more and be more physically dominant.”
Coach of the year: Mike Tomassi, Fox Lane — At just 28 years old, Tomassi led the Foxes to a Section 1 Class AA championship in his second season as the head coach of his alma mater. They finished 22-4, including an upset of top-seeded Mount Vernon — the preseason and pre-tournament favorite — in the sectional final. Fox Lane outplayed the Knights down the stretch to win 67-60 and claim their first gold ball since Tomassi was the school’s sophomore point guard in 2004. The Foxes not only beat Section 1 powers New Rochelle, White Plains and Mount Vernon consecutively to win the section, they then won a state playoff game to reach the regional final.
The rest of The Journal News’ first-team all-stars:
Derrick Felder, Sr., Saunders: The Concordia-bound Felder finished off a standout four-year career by averaging 19.1 points, 8.0 rebounds and nearly 4.0 steals and 3.0 assists per game. The 6-foot-2 guard earned Mr. Basketball honors from the Lower Hudson Valley Basketball Coaches Association after leading Saunders to the Class AA semifinals for the second straight year.
Patrick Fleming, Sr., Iona Prep: The 6-foot-4 Dobbs Ferry native took on increased responsibility when last year’s player of the year, Ty Jerome, suffered a season-ending injury in December. He became the Gaels’ primary ball-handler and No. 1 scoring threat. The Assumption-bound Fleming finished as Iona Prep’s only double-figure scorer, averaging 16.0 per game, and leading the Gaels to two wins over rival Stepinac and a pair of playoff victories.
Marco Morency, Jr., Mount Vernon: The 6-foot-2 guard produced a team-best 17.2 ppg for Mount Vernon, which entered the postseason as the area’s No. 1 team. Morency, who also averaged 4.8 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game, was also a disruptive force on defense. He flashed his potential at both ends against elite competition when the Knights played in the SNY Invitational in late January.
Noah Morgan, Jr., Mount Vernon: In his third season on varsity, the versatile 6-foot-5 Morgan thrived as a scorer, rebounder and facilitator, averaging 15.9 points, 7.5 rebounds and 4.0 assists. He found his scoring touch in Canada, scoring 78 points in the last two games of the Snowball Classic to earn tournament MVP honors. Morgan also joined Morency as a first-team all-LHBCA pick.
Second team all-stars:
Luis Cartagena, Sr., White Plains
Malachi de Sousa, Jr., Kennedy
Aundre Hyatt, So., Stepinac
Sean New, Sr., Fox Lane
Jordan Tucker, Jr., Stepinac
Honorable mention: Kyle Atkins, So., Hamilton; Tucker Beachak, Sr., Haldane; Jesse Boyce, Sr., Westlake; Wendell Brand, Sr., Sleepy Hollow; Jesse Breeding, Sr., Hen Hud; Paris Brown, Jr., Woodlands; Kevin Buron, Sr., Kennedy; Greg Calixte, Jr., Mount Vernon; Andre Carthorn, Sr., Clark Academy; Emmanuel Chukwu, Sr., Rye Country Day; Josiah Cobbs, Sr., Briarcliff; Sean Crowley, Sr., Briarcliff; Harrison Deegan, Sr., Putnam Valley; Jake DiGiansante, So., Blind Brook; Benny DiMirco, Sr., Eastchester; Zach Evans, Sr., Harrison; Alan Griffin, So., Ossining; Matt Groll, Jr., Byram Hills; Rohan Harrison, Jr., Harvey; Miles Haughton, Sr., Mamaroneck; Darius Inzar, Sr., Hackley; Caleb Krohn, Sr., Scarsdale; Austin Lavitt, Sr., Blind Brook; C.J. Layne, Sr., White Plains; Jorden Means, Jr., Stepinac; Anthony Miller, Sr., Saunders; Anthony Mitchell, Sr., Salesian; Charlie Nagle, Jr., Rye; Alex Olsen, Sr., Fox Lane; Jack Reish, Jr., Briarcliff; Alex Romans, Sr., Salesian; Skylar Sinon, So., Byram Hills; Sean Smith, Jr., Sacred Heart; Joe Spinola, Sr., Putnam Valley; Obie Toppin, Sr., Ossining; Jamel Wallace, Sr., New Rochelle; Jordan Wright, Sr., Kennedy; Will Zuvic, Sr., Haldane.