Boys Hoops Notebook: Mahopac Falls in Slam Dunk; Somers Prevails in Heroic Fashion; Decker, Cousin Save Day for Tuskers; Croton’s Thom Terrific vs. North Salem

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Mahopac Coach Kevin Downes had been in Slam Dunk Tournament Director Lou DeMello’s ear for a number of years, hoping his Indians might get a crack at a competitive challenge game in the prestigious tournament that runs over the holiday break at the Westchester County Center.

Indian Brendan Hynes on the go in loss to Stepinac Friday. Photo by Ray Gallagher

“We wanted in, it didn’t matter who we played,” the affable Downes said.

DeMello obliged this past off-season and put the Indians in the tournament’s toughest bracket, forgoing a “Challenge Game” and pitting Mahopac against perennial CHSAA powerhouse Stepinac in last Friday’s opening round, with Class AA juggernaut New Rochelle on the other side of the bracket. Unfortunately, Mahopac’s offense was stagnant against the quicker Crusaders, resulting in a disappointing 66-44 first-round loss. Class AA Stepinac went on to play New Rochelle in Sunday’s title tilt while the Indians battled St. Marty’s for third place (Examiner deadlines were moved up to early Sunday on account of New Year’s Eve).

“Turns out we’re in a pretty tough bracket, but we look at this as a great challenge for our ball club,” Downes said, just minutes prior to tipoff against the Crusaders.

Stepinac sophomore DeMarcus Miller (15 points), Naim Thomas (16 points, four assists) and Monmouth-bound Josh James (10 points, six rebounds, six assists) each scored in double figures while Downes’ Indians were surprisingly stale on offense.

Despite significant four troubles, Mahopac senior Brendan Hynes led the Indians with 12 points and grabbed six rebounds, but neither he nor his teammates ever seemed to find their flow.

Unfortunately, for the Indians their ball handling skills were problematic. They committed 15 turnovers during the first half and these mistakes led to points by the Crusaders. The Indians height advantage was taken away from them because they failed to control the ball, which played right into the Crusaders wheelhouse. Keeping the game a little up-tempo allowed the Crusaders to get quality shots and allowed them to build their lead in the second quarter.

With the Crusaders using their speed and taking good quality shots off the Indians’ turnovers they were able to run into the locker room at halftime with a 28-19 lead. The Indians came out hot early in the third quarter with a basket by Hynes and a three-point bomb by senior guard Daniel Tully. With just over six minutes remaining in the quarter it was just a six-point lead, 30-24 for the Crusaders.

After Tully’s key shot, Naim Thomas, who was just playing his second game of the season due to an ankle injury earlier in December, responded in a big way for the Crusaders. Thomas was fouled and converted two free throws and then two possessions later he nailed a shot from beyond the three-point arc. He ended up scoring nine points in the quarter and the Crusaders were up 11 going into the final quarter 44-33.

The game got testy at times and both head coaches removed their starters with several minutes to go. After the game there was a brief altercation between teams around mid-court that was quickly broken up with each teams going to the respective locker rooms.

Tully and Ryan Simone both had nine points. All of Tully’s point came on three-pointers. Michael Simone finished the game with 10 rebounds and two points. The key statistic of the game was the 28 turnovers by the Indians…

SOMERS had a day to remember at the Slam Dunk tourney. Not that there was really any significant doubt regarding the area’s top shooter, but Somers sniper John Decker put any to rest with his performance last Thursday in the Tuskers’ 59-58 win over defending CHSAA Class A NYS champion Iona Prep in a Slam Dunk Tournament Challenge game, which turned out to be one of the best games of the week, if not the young season.

Decker drained a game-high 39 points (2nd highest in Slam Dunk history) and shot an unconscionable 6-of-13 from downtown (mind you he did this at the County Center where depth perception is everything). His torch kept the Tuskers alive until the final seconds when Decker (6 steals) found junior Conor Cousin for his third trifecta of the game to beat the buzzer and seal the deal.

“It all still kinda feels like a dream,” Cousin said! “It’s something you draw up in your head in your backyard. I celebrated with the team of course because without them I wouldn’t have even had the opportunity to experience something like this. It’s a memory of a lifetime, something I will never forget, especially at a building like the County Center and against such a power house team like Iona Prep.”

If Somers needed a confidence-boosting win to prove it could contend with Class AA Mahopac for the League I-B title, this was the jolt the Class A Tuskers needed. It might also spur them to a second County Center visit this March if the Tuskers can build off this win.

“This is a total confidence booster for us,” said Cousin, who should get some extra run for the Tuskers from here on out. “It shows the rest of the league what we are really made of and that were a team that never dies

Iona Prep was up 7 with 1:19 left when Decker, Xavier Lloyd and Cousin, who came off the bench and nailed three 3’s in the final 1:06, erased the deficit and gave Somers what some might call its biggest win since Derek Hyra and Willy Diertich last guided Somers to the County Center Final 4 in 1992. Those Tuskers knocked off undefeated Brewster on March 5th, 1992 in the semis before losing to Magnus in the title tilt at the Mecca, and Somers hadn’t had a sniff of the County Center since. You’d have to say that the win over Iona Prep was Somers’ biggest win since then…

CROTON’s Ian Thom, almost single-handedly, turned the County Center on its ear the next day, delivering a 33-point, six-rebound effort in the Tigers’ 61-56 over North Salem Friday. Thom, who had two steals and shot 9-for-17 from the field, copped MVP honors for the second year in a row, hit the final five points of the game, snapping a 56-all tie. Thom, one of the best free-throw shooters in Section 1 history, hit 13-of-17 from the stripe. Certainly, this a W the youthful Tigers can build on, particularly if they can get nine points and eight boards from improving Chris McVeety on a regular basis.


NWE/Putnam Examiner-area Slick Six Hoop Poll

No.1 PEEKSKILL – After Slam Dunk game with South Shore Sunday, we don’t expect to see Coach P’s Class A Red Devils (No.4 in NYS) lose again before they face a staunch challenge from a non-region opponent on MLK day, and we’ve gone ahead and circled Jan.26th just the same, seeing how the Red Devils will head to Mahopac that day as part of the first annual Putnam/Westchester Challenge. Three good boys’ games on tap include: Brewster vs. Fox Lane – 12:00 p.m.; Carmel vs. Panas – 4:00 p.m.; Mahopac vs. Peekskill – 8:00 p.m.

No.2 MAHOPAC – Coach Downes Indians gave Archbishop Stepinac (ranked No.16 in NYS) a run for three quarters, but they looked completely discombobulated on offense for long stretches. There’s work to do here, and the 2012 Class AA runner-up Indians (2-4) are hanging on at No.2 by the skin of their scalp and their rough and tumble schedule, which now includes losses to Stepinac, Poughkeepsie, Newburgh and Arlington.

No.3 PUTNAM VALLEY – Coach Ed Wallach’s Class B Tigers (6-1) have asked me what it’s gonna take to move to No.2 in the poll. Well, Mahopac has to fall hard and the Tigers have to run the table through Carmel on Jan.14. Even then, there’s no guarantee with Somers creeping in. PV should be 10-1 by the time they see Carmel if they take care of business and could be looking at a No.1/2 seed in Class B playoffs if they play their cards right.

No.3 SOMERS – We can’t push the Class A Tuskers (6-1) past PV just yet, but the win over Iona Prep will push them even at No.3 for the time being. Somers could easily win 14-15 games prior to playoffs if the win over IP is a true indicator. A win like that goes a log way toward erasing the memory of last year’s outbracket playoff loss to John Jay.

No.5 CARMEL – Coach Coates’ Class AA Rams (4-2) will get a look at a Somers team that is being mentioned as a Class A contender on the 8th of Jan.

No.6 CROTON – Young and eager to improve, Coach Thom’s club will go as far as Ian Thom can carry them, and the win over North Salem at Slam Dunk is a step the Tigers (3-2) needed to take.

Peter Gerken contributed to this article

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