BEACON – Our Lady of Lourdes was likely the better team anyway. But that provided little solace to the Beacon High School boys basketball team after Saturday’s blowout loss.
Not now. Not during this race-against-the-schedule frenzy the Bulldogs are in, forfeiting all seven of their wins on the season last week after it was determined they had an ineligible player on the roster.
“It’s really hard because there’s pressure on us to win the next five or six out of eight games,” forward Jemond Galloway said, alluding to the number of wins his team would likely need to make the playoffs. “Then we have to play tough teams like Lourdes.”
In its attempt to climb from the nadir, Beacon suffered a setback. Kevin Townes and James Anozie each scored 20 points to lead Lourdes in a 73-43 win over the host Bulldogs.
“It’s one game and we can only look ahead to our next one,” said Bulldogs coach Scott Timpano, whose team next faces Hendrick Hudson on Wednesday. “We just need to hit our win total and we don’t want it coming down to the last moment.”
The team is in this quagmire after it was revealed on Jan. 4 that Beacon had used an ineligible player. The Bulldogs were 7-3 at the time, but the violation stripped them of those victories. The school administration discovered the discrepancy, reported itself to Section 1 and, in an instant, their record became 0-10. The football team also had its four wins wiped out.
“I’m upset just as a fan and I feel terrible for the team,” said Dave McKenzie, older brother of Beacon junior Zamere McKenzie. “It wasn’t even the kid’s fault.”
He echoed the sentiments expressed by Timpano and teammates all along. The school has not revealed the player’s identity, but Dave McKenzie said the problem arose because the player was short one class on his schedule. The student transferred from another school and had already accrued the required credits, McKenzie said, but rules dictate that an athlete must be enrolled in at least four classes to be deemed eligible to play.
That oversight has the team now scrambling to win enough of its final games to eek into the Section 1 Class A playoffs, though it remains a possibility.
“He’s feeling better now and we’ve talked to him,” Galloway said of his teammate, “but he still kind of blames himself for it. He really shouldn’t. We know that.”
The Bulldogs (1-11) have played twice since forfeiting, beating Sleepy Hollow on Thursday before falling to Lourdes.
Beacon was competitive early, but the Warriors outscored them 46-24 in the second half. Anozie, who also had 12 rebounds, scored all of his points after intermission. Joe Heavey added 16 points, including four three-pointers, and Aidan Hilderbrand had 15 points.
Zamere McKenzie scored 13 points for the Bulldogs. Galloway added 11 and Alex Benson had nine. Beacon tied it at 15 on McKenzie’s reverse layup midway through the second quarter, but Townes answered immediately. On successive possessions, the 6-foot guard drilled a three and then threw down a two-handed dunk on a put-back. The Warriors then pulled away.
“The situation was really frustrating,” said Brandon Evans, who had eight points for Beacon. “We worked so hard to get those wins and now we don’t have them. But I know we can make (the playoffs) if we really dig in.”
Players said Timpano was even more upset than them after receiving the bad news. The team to that point, the coach said, had outperformed even his initial expectations and the postseason seemed a certainty.
“If we can still make it, it would show just how resilient they are,” Timpano said. “It would feel like everything worked itself out.”
Section 1 uses a points-based system for the playoffs, with each team needing 32 points to qualify. A victory is worth four points and teams are awarded bonus points for each opponent it faces that finishes with a winning record. Lourdes is 7-4. So Beacon will likely have to win at least five of its remaining eight games while hoping their previous opponents finish strong.
“I’m pretty confident they’ll be in the playoffs,” Warriors coach Jim Santoro said. “Psychologically, they earned those wins. The situation doesn’t change who they are. I feel sorry for the team that has to play them in the first round because they’re gonna get a lower seed than they should.”
Stephen Haynes: email@example.com, 845-437-4826, Twitter: @StephenHaynes4