Fox Lane’s Huge Third-Quarter Run Overwhelms the Tigers

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By Andy Jacobs
The Foxes’ Niko Dent converts on a fast-break layup early in the fourth quarter of Friday’s victory over the White Plains Tigers.

Even though it’s been just nine weeks, it seems like eons ago since the Fox Lane boys’ basketball team opened its season on the road against Yorktown looking nothing like a contender for a sectional championship.

But on Friday evening, in front of a large and enthusiastic Senior Night home crowd, the suddenly surging Foxes provided one more reminder that they are indeed in the mix for Class AA supremacy.

Using an overwhelming 22-2 run to close the third quarter, Fox Lane went on to a convincing 60-49 victory over the upset-minded White Plains Tigers, who held a four-point lead early in the second half. Justin Allen finished with 19 points and Niko Dent came off the bench to add 15 points, eight rebounds and one emphatic blocked shot as the Foxes clinched the Conference 1, League D title and stretched their winning streak to seven games.

“You know, we’ve come a long way,” said Fox head coach Mike Tomassi, looking back on that dismal 20-point loss to the Huskers back in early December. “The first game of the year, we had two new guys in the starting lineup, first time playing with fans in a long time. And we had to grow. To be 14 and 5 right now, with one game to play, to win back-to-back league championships, is unbelievable. Unbelievable. It really is.”

The visiting Tigers arrived with just six wins in 18 games, but with standout junior Menzy Carden pouring in a game-high 23 points, many of them coming on silky smooth pullup jumpers, they managed to match the Foxes basket for basket for much of the contest.

Fox Lane’s Justin Allen uses his left hand to score a first-half basket in Friday night’s 60-49 win over visiting White Plains.

White Plains outscored the Foxes 18-11 in the second quarter and took a 26-24 lead into intermission following a Carden 3-pointer with 53 seconds left in the half. Even worse for Fox Lane, Allen had been whistled for his third foul driving to the basket with 4:20 remaining and was forced to watch the remainder of the half from the bench.

“Yeah, we had some foul trouble,” said Tomassi. “Definitely changed some of the things we wanted to do. But we persevered. We’re a deep team and we had guys that stepped up. We were able to get through that first half down two, which I thought was great. And it was about the second half, just playing better as a team, and I thought we did that.”

Just 12 seconds into the second half, Carden scored on a short pullup jumper to give the Tigers a four-point lead. Charlie Shevick, who provided the Foxes with 11 points, then dropped in a left-corner 3-point shot 30 seconds later. But White Plains regained its four-point advantage when Carden scored on a hanging-in-midair, double-pumping put-back with 5:10 left in the third quarter.
Unfortunately for the Tigers, by the time they finally scored again more than four minutes later, Fox Lane had erupted for 18 straight points to quickly turn the contest into a rout. The huge spurt began with Michael Lombardi making a 10-foot pop in the lane. Exactly halfway through the quarter, Allen followed by driving in for a scoop shot off glass that tied the game.

Dent, the excitable junior forward who made an immediate impact with his offensive rebounding when he was summoned into the game by Tomassi in the first half, then gave Fox Lane the lead for good when he scored a layup on a feed from Aidan Giannelli. Back-to-back 3-pointers from Shevick and Allen capped the run and gave Fox Lane a commanding 14-point advantage.

Senior forward Dylan Watson maneuvers down low against Elijah Pierre of White Plains in the second half of Fox Lane’s 60-49 victory.

A free throw by Elijah Pierre finally ended the Tigers’ scoring drought, but the third quarter ended with Giannelli racing in for a lefty layup and then Dent scoring inside, off a nice pass from Allen, with five seconds on the clock. The Fox Lane lead was suddenly up to 52-36 and a game up for grabs just minutes earlier was all but over.

“Third quarter, we defended better,” said Tomassi. “We switched up a little press, back into zone, but we also just moved the ball offensively and guys were making shots. I think we kind of got back into our flow on offense.”

The Foxes built their largest lead of the night, 18 points, when Allen hit on a pullup 17-foot jumper 15 seconds into the fourth quarter. White Plains never got any closer than 13 points after that until Carden provided a highlight-reel tomahawk dunk after intercepting a cross-court pass with half a minute remaining.

“We had some injuries, some Covid stuff, so we really haven’t been able to get into a flow until the last three and a half weeks, said Tomassi, whose team closed the regular season by defeating Harrison a day later behind 15 points apiece from Allen and Dent. “I tell the kids the season’s a marathon. It’s not a sprint. No championships are won in November, December and January. It’s about who’s got the team playing the best at the end of February. So that’s what we want to do.”

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