Who could have known when Byram Hills guard Matteo Sinon drained a 3-point shot a minute and 15 seconds into Wednesday night’s Section 1, Class A quarterfinal playoff game that the Bobcats would never make another one the rest of the way and would proceed to miss 19 in a row?
And who could have predicted the Bobcats would get thoroughly dominated on the backboards by the visiting Pearl River Pirates, who took the lead for good with three and a half minutes left in the opening quarter and went on to a 62-53 victory, earning a trip to the Westchester County Center this Wednesday for a sectional semifinal against Rye.
“That’s it in a nutshell,” said Bobcats coach Ted Repa, asked afterwards about the Bobcats’ deficiency shooting from the perimeter and also pulling down rebounds. “We were one for 20 from three and they killed us on the glass. We knew they were a big, physical team. We knew they were gonna play really hard. And I think it got in our heads that we didn’t see the ball go in the basket enough.”
The second-seeded Bobcats, winners of their last 10 games of the regular season, trailed by nine points heading to the fourth quarter. But back-to-back baskets from Jon Trongone, who finished with a team-high 20 points, cut the Pearl River lead to 46-41 just 90 seconds into the final period. The seventh-seeded Pirates, who had dropped their final three games before the playoffs, then answered with consecutive 3-pointers and Byram never got closer than seven points again.
“One off the glass,” said Repa, painfully recalling the first of the Pirates’ 3-pointers, a shot not far from the left corner that caromed off the backboard right through the rim. “Back breakers. Back breakers. That was tough. But credit to them. I thought coach (Jerry) Houston did a great job. Those kids, they really fought.”
The early 3-point basket by Matteo, following a game-opening bucket by the Pirates, gave Byram Hills its only lead of the entire night. Trongone’s turnaround jumper inside the foul line tied the game at 7-7 with 3:45 left in the first quarter, but just 14 seconds later an old-fashioned 3-point play from Matt Daly provided Pearl River with a lead it never lost.
Pearl River built a 21-15 advantage after the opening eight minutes and stretched its lead to 30-21 with 2:12 remaining in the half on a 3-pointer from the left corner by Jack Scanlon, who wound up with a game-high 22 points. A buzzer-beating 18-foot fall-away jumper from John Hayes, who scored all 14 of his points in the first two quarters, gave the Pirates a 32-24 halftime lead.
“They shot well,” said Repa, frustrated that the Pirates piled up 21 points in the opening quarter. “We knew they got out in transition. We were definitely worried about their inside game. But their guards really hurt us.”
A put-back basket by Daly nearly a minute into the second half gave Pearl River its first double-digit lead of the contest. The Bobcats answered with a bucket from Benji Hammond and then a runner in the lane by Trongone to close within 34-28. But with just under two minutes left in the quarter, a short turnaround jumper by Scanlon left Byram trailing 43-32.
The fourth quarter began with the Pirates ahead 46-37, though the Bobcats soon gave their fans something to cheer about when Trongone managed to score consecutive baskets 30 seconds apart. With the lead trimmed to just five points, Pearl River answered with the two straight treys, the first a serendipitous shot by Jack Michaelson that banked in and then one by Scanlon from nearly the same location in the left corner.
With just 5:22 left on the clock, Pearl River’s lead was suddenly back up to 11 points. Put-back baskets from Nick Massaro and Daly gave the Pirates their largest lead of the night, 56-43, with 3:32 remaining. The Bobcats made one final push, getting a left-baseline flip from Trongone and then two straight baskets by Mike Parrotta, who finished with 13 points.
But Daly scored on a layup with 1:08 to go and 13 seconds later Scanlon waltzed in for another easy bucket, all but assuring that the season was about to end for Byram Hills. In the final minute, the Bobcats got baskets from Parrotta and Sinon, but they were too little and late.
“Really, really rough because this was a special group,” said Repa. “It was one of my most enjoyable years coaching because of the kids in there and how close we became. I never would’ve thought we’d go 17 and 3 and get the two seed. We over-performed all year and we kind of fell short tonight. A lot of that has to do with Pearl River.”