NEW PALTZ – Axel Rodriguez was being interviewed following his big performance for the New Paltz High School basketball team, when his buddy Kumar Singh began making faces behind him.
Rodriguez waved dismissively at his friend, saying, “Don’t worry about him. That’s my son.”
Whoa. A sophomore referring to a senior football star as his child?
“Yeah,” Rodriguez said with a grin. “I might be young, but I’m the man on this court.”
Singh didn’t dispute that part.
The guard had just proven it with 25-point, four-steal game, leading the Huguenots in a taut 70-67 home win over Franklin D. Roosevelt on Friday.
Rodriguez exploded for 11 points in the third quarter as New Paltz turned a halftime deficit into a big lead. Roosevelt rallied in the fourth and tied it at 66 on DeAndre Orr’s free throw with 1:17 remaining. But Corey Burke had the go-ahead points for New Paltz, tossing in a layup off a well-designed inbounds pass that made it 68-66 with 58 seconds to go. Christian Burda’s free throws created the margin with 10 seconds left.
“This is a great win over a really good team,” senior Joe DiMarco said of beating a Class AA opponent. “It was a good team win.”
But it was Rodriguez — and Charlie Perez — who went berserk in the third quarter, propelling the Huguenots. Rodriguez scored six points in the opening 90 seconds of the period, and threw a nifty behind-the-back pass to Michael Holohan for a layup that made it 31-29. That lead eventually swelled to 52-43, thanks in part to Perez dropping 11 points in the quarter.
Holohan had eight points and nine rebounds, and Corey Burke added six points and four blocks for New Paltz (10-1), which is jockeying for the top seed entering the Section 9 Class A playoffs.
The Presidents opened the fourth quarter on a 12-2 surge, turning a potential blowout into a tight, back-and-forth contest. Roosevelt had a chance in the waning seconds, but two three-point attempts missed just before time expired.
Ethan Hart scored 26 points for Roosevelt (11-3). They, too, are enjoying a turnaround campaign after missing the playoffs a year ago.
But in this contest, Rodriguez proved too much. His quickness and ability to finish through contact gave the defense fits. But as for the family tree…
“No,” DiMarco said emphatically. “Axel is my son. He’s awesome, but he’s still young.”
Stephen Haynes: firstname.lastname@example.org, 845-437-4826, Twitter: @StephenHaynes4