You could sense the collective sigh of relief from the four corners of northeast Putnam County; Kent, Carmel, Lake Carmel and Patterson when the Carmel Rams ended three years of misery, and then some, with a 57-50 double-overtime defeat of neighboring rival Mahopac last Wednesday afternoon. You could see the orangutan being lifted off the back of @CarmelCrazies_ and most every student at Carmel as junior Ryan Train put the Rams on his back and scored all 19 of his game-high points in the second half and overtime, including 15 from the fourth quarter on, plus the clutch go-ahead drive that snapped a 50-50 tie.
“I’ve played in at least 500 basketball games in my life, and this was by far the best game I’ve ever been a part of,” said Train, who was also the best sport on the court, patting Indians on the back and helping them off the floor after tie-ups, collisions and what not. “I just love the rivalry and the way Mahopac always brings out the best in us.”
The League A opener for both teams was more than just another game; it always is when these two rivals tango, but Carmel needed this as bad as its ever needed a win over Mahopac, which had pretty much ruled the Rams (3-5) in every major boys’ sport, and most girls, too, the last three or four years.
The 2014 Class AA semifinalist Indians (3-5) rallied from a 20-7 second-quarter deficit in the second half to tie the game at 40-40 to force the first overtime, and again at 47-47 to force the second overtime.
“This win means so much to us since we’ve struggled to beat them in all sports, not just basketball, for a couple of years now,” the redemptive Train said. “It means a lot to me because of how the game ended last year with me missing the free throws at the end of the game when we had the chance to beat them.”
Junior G Quinn Willman added 12 clutch points for Carmel off four 3s, including a huge stroke in OT. Every time Mahopac was about to get over the hump and get on that run that would bury the Rams, Willman and Train seemed to have an answer.
“I thought we started the game very poorly and had some unforced turnovers that really hurt us,” Mahopac first-year Coach Jim Harter said. It’s not easy to come back in a rival game when you fall behind 20-7, but to our kids’ credit, they hung in there and put themselves in a position to win at the end.
“We just missed some free throws down the stretch,” said Harter, noting the seven consecutive fourth-quarter free throws the Indians missed before Chris Esernio hit one of two. “That kept us from finishing the job. If we had just made a few of those, it would have been a great comeback win. But give (Carmel) credit, too. Train made some big plays down the stretch and made a good drive to put them ahead one with 11 seconds left.”
SOMERS REMAINS UNBEATEN
Every successful team has a guy that does the stuff that may or may not show up in the box score; that guy or gal who does the grunt work that often goes ignored by fans and media types. But no team can succeed with the grunt; for a bunch of pretty boys can only go so far before they are outworked and eliminated from competition.
Sate-ranked (No.20) Somers (6-0) is lucky to have a grunt like senior Tommy Gargiulo on its side because they would have likely suffered their first loss of the season last Saturday without his 8 points, 11 rebounds and game-saving block as time expired in the Tuskers’ 64-62 League I-D win over visiting Fox Lane (6-4).
“Coach Pat Reilly once said that the true test of character is the person that wants to do everything that nobody else wants to do, and Tommy is that guy,” Somers Coach Chris DiCintio said. “In my twenty-something years of coaching, I would say that he is easily one of the top rebounders I’ve ever seen at this level. He’s got amazing knack for rebounding and seems to get to every 50-50 ball. He’s a great, great kid and has been the steady force that has enabled this team to compete every game. His box score will never show it, but he is most definitely one of our MVPs, along with (Anthony) Maestri.
“This was a great litmus test for us,” the coach added. “Fox Lane is a great team and they will be a tough out for anyone in the playoffs, but I’m so proud of the way this team came out tonight after a 21-day layoff. The energy gave us confidence that we could play with them.
To his credit, Gargiulo is cool with everything, choosing to accept his role as a bruising presence on a team with at least three preferred scoring options in sniper Ryan Grossman (11 points vs. Fox Lane), maestro G Matt Maloney (10 points) and versatile swingman Anthony Maestri, who dropped a game-high 20 on the Foxes, including 14 in the second half.
“I know my role on this team and I’m fine with that,” Gargiulo said. “Every team. needs guys that do the little things. We have a bunch of guys on this team that can score, so I try to do the other things that help us win, and we won’t stop until we raise that golden ball at the County Center, that’s our ultimate goal.”
If the Tuskers were so fortunate to hoist the coveted hardware, they would be the first Somers team to do so since 1992 (circa Derek Hyra/Willy Dietrich). Yeah, yeah… we’ve heard this about Somers since the emergence of Somers hotshot John Decker a few years back, but Class A is clearly state-ranked (No.6) Spring Valley’s to lose; though Somers appears to be a legit challenger.
First up, though, is Saturday’s dust-up with host Yorktown in what figures to be a real doozy that might actually come down to the last possession should both clubs play to their potential.
Here’s a glimpse at a poll that means less than nothing.
Putnam/NWE Fab Five Hoops Poll
No.1 SOMERS – Coach DiCintio’s Class A Tuskers (6-0), ranked No.20 in NYS, are making believers out of everyone, and this tilt with Yorktown on Saturday at 7 pm should be one of the more raucous environments we see in these parts this winter: @Tusker_Nation vs. @THE_CROP no excuses!
No.2 YORKTOWN – Coach Downes’ Class A Huskers (6-1) saw senior Mason Dyslin post LaBron-like numbers when he went for 31poits, 13 rebounds and four blocks in the Huskers’ 45-40 League I-D win over John Jay. We’ve been on Somers and Yorktown like white on rice since Day 1, so you get the idea we’re pretty pumped for this Saturday and the opening round of the 18th annual George Budries Tournament where Somers will defend its title, and the Huskers, who have matched their win total from last season after seven games under Downes, will look to stake their claim as league-title favorites and then some.
No.3 HALDANE – Coach Virgadamo’s defending Section 1 Class C champion Blue Devils (6-2) are ranked No.3 in NYS and will see senior swingman Peter Hoffmann net the 1000th point of his career this week upon making his very first shot. The “Hoff” will join Mike Kiefer, Damon Perpetua, Joe DeMarco, Joe Virgadamo and Jackson Zuvic in the milestone club.
No.4 PUTNAM VALLEY – Coach McDonnell’s Class B Tigers (5-4) had a week to prep for tonight battle with scrappy non-league Sleepy Hollow (8-1), which will lead up to a scrape with Panas on Jan.16 and the upcoming League I-C slate, including the highly-hyped Haldane tilt on Jan.24.
No.5 BREWSTER – Coach Nelly’s Class A Bears (4-4) have fought hard to get back to .500 and now that they are here we suspect Jon Palmiero, who dropped 16 in a 58-52 win over John Jay, and the Bears will remain afloat the rest of the way. Sam Adama added 13 for the Bears, who we told you not to sleep on even when they were 1-3.
HM CARMEL –Coach Venditto’s Class AA Rams (3-5) are the feel-good story of the week after they essentially saved whatever FACE they had left after losing that many game to Mahopac in a row in that many sports (we lost track it was so many). We know things are cyclical on the varsity circuit, but this was bordering on preposterous and y’all need to accept it, move on and ensure such dominance never happens again.
HM CROTON – Coach Thom’s Class B Tigers (6-2) are firmly in the League III-A title chase after taking down a pretty decent Pleasantville club behind a solid effort from the Seabass, Teejay Searight, who had 17 points, five assists and five ’bounds in the critical league win. Beat Briarcliff this week and we’ll talk about the Top 5 spot Coach Big Stevey claims y’all deserve.
HM LAKELAND – Coach Weltman’s Class A Hornets (4-5) defeated Peekskill 64-49 to get the first leg up on the League I-B title chase behind G Mike Morelli, who had a game-high 26 points and proved the Hornets have the necessary guard play to make a run. Fiery G Ryan Thomas and lengthy C Nick Fazio had 15 points apiece, providing the versatility the Hornets will need to take this thing.
HM PANAS – Coach Sully’s reigning Section 1 Class A champion Panthers (4-4) got the kind of game they are going to need from senior G Brandon Collins, who led the Panthers with 25 points in a 60-48 win over Ossining. G James Luctamar added 17 for the Panthers while AJ Stokely and Shea Holebrook had 15 and 14, respectively, for the Pride. Might they be the favorites for the I-B title?
HM MAHOPAC – Coach Harter Class AA Indians (3-5) are a terrific bunch of athletes, but they went bankrupt at the free throw line in their 57-51 double-overtime loss to Carmel, missing seven in a row at one point, while signaling the end to their dominance of Carmel.
HM HEN HUD – Coach Hirsch’s Class A Sailors (5-1) saw the Carson Jacobs, the Sailors’ basketball version of Gronk, nail a monster double-double in a 71-61 win over Beacon, whereby the beast had 21 points and inhaled 13 rebounds. Nick Marra added 17 for the Sailors, who still need that one big W to make believers out of us all.
HM PEEKSKILL – It seems Coach Turner’s Class A Red Devils (1-7) just aren’t going to amount to my expectations this season. Shame, because I really believed they could still contend for a League I-B title, even in a down year, but the clunker they provided us with against Lakeland signals otherwise.
Ray has 33 years experience covering and photographing local sports in Westchester and Putnam counties, including everything from Little League/Travel Baseball to varsity high school prep sports and collegiate coverage. He has been a sports editor at Examiner Media since its inception in 2007.