Fox Lane Eliminated by the Rams in the Opening Round

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The Foxes’ Xander Alvarado dribbles past midcourt in Saturday’s Class AA sectional game.

When Fox Lane guard Xander Alvarado rose out of the left corner nearly two minutes into the fourth quarter late Saturday afternoon and drained a 3-point basket to cap a 13-1 run that gave the Foxes their first lead of the entire day, it seemed all the momentum had shifted in their direction.

But just 10 seconds later, Cole McGrath answered with a 3-point shot for visiting Clarkstown North, igniting a 10-0 spurt over the next three minutes that helped carry the Rams to a 52-48 victory over the Foxes in the opening round of the Section One, Class AA playoffs.

“I think tonight summed up our season,” said Fox head coach Mike Tomassi shortly after Josh Olsen’s desperation half-court heave at the buzzer fell short. “You know, playing great at times, I think we can play with anybody in the section. And then being inconsistent and not playing great at times when we don’t look very good. And tonight summed that up.”

Though the score was tied on four different occasions in the first quarter, the seventh-seeded Foxes never got a lead. The Rams, seeded 10th, built a 17-12 advantage after the opening eight minutes and then stretched it to 32-23 at halftime. North’s lead reached double digits before the second half even began as Mike Louzada, the game’s high scorer with 22 points, made one of two technical free throws.

The Foxes had struggled on the defensive end of the court throughout the opening half and Louzada’s layup 30 seconds into the third quarter, followed by a free throw from Nick Ovchinnikoff half a minute later, gave Clarkstown its largest lead of the day, 36-23.

“Disappointing,” said Tomassi, “because you scout. You spend a lot of time scouting and drawing up a game plan and you don’t come out and execute it. Disappointing just because we preach being physical. We preach defense is an attitude and to step up and make plays for your team, and the first half we didn’t defend at all. You can’t beat good teams not playing 32 minutes.”

But the Foxes soon responded with back-to-back baskets from center Preston McKenney and were on their way to an extended 17-3 stretch. Two free throws by Devin Hunter, who scored 10 of his 11 points after intermission, closed the third quarter and brought Fox Lane within 39-35.

A floater in the lane by Hunter with 6:53 remaining in the game narrowed the Rams’ lead to just two points. Just 38 seconds later, Alvarado, who led the Foxes with 21 points, nailed the fourth of his five 3-pointers, sending Fox Lane into the lead for the first time and its student cheering section into a frenzy.

But Alvarado’s trey out of the corner turned out to be just about the last hoorah for Fox Lane this season. McGrath responded with his own 3-pointer from the left elbow with 6:04 left on the clock and the Foxes went scoreless for over four minutes. Louzada’s old-fashioned 3-point play with 3:03 to go sent McKenney to the bench with his fifth foul and restored the Rams’ double-digit advantage.

Still, the Foxes were not quite done yet. Alvarado scored on a floater in the lane while getting fouled. He hit the free throw, cutting the Clarkstown lead to seven with 1:50 remaining. Two free throws by Hunter got the Foxes even closer 15 seconds later.

McGrath scored a layup on a long pass over the top of the Fox Lane press, giving the Rams a 52-45 margin. Alvarado’s final 3-pointer cut the deficit to four points with 1:09 still to go. A baseline runner from Alvarado brought the Foxes within 52-50. They closed to 53-52 after John Rocco Trumpbour rattled in a pair of free throws with nine seconds left. Louzada made the first of two foul shots a second later, then missed the second after getting iced by a Fox Lane timeout.

But by the time Fox Lane managed to gain control of the ball after a rebound battle along the baseline, there were just three seconds on the clock. Having to go the length of the floor, the Foxes wound up with a pass to Olsen, who took a dribble past midcourt, then fired a 40-foot jump shot that landed far short of the rim as the buzzer sounded.

“This team all year’s been resilient,” said Tomassi. “The issue’s been putting it together and being consistent. I thought we kind of were coasting in the first half. We were struggling defensively. Second half, we definitely picked it up. I think defensively and offensively executed a little bit more. But it came down to every time we needed a big stop or a big rebound, we didn’t get it.”

The loss to the Rams was the Foxes’ second this year after an eight-point loss, also at home, a couple of months ago. But Tomassi can at least look forward to having most of his players return again next season.

“We’re young, so we’ve got nine guys coming back,” he said. “Hopefully this one stings for them, but we’ve got to get better if we wanna get to where we wanna get to. You know, County Center’s always our goal, league championship is always our goal, and we didn’t accomplish any of those this year.”

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