Lakeland, Panas Come up Huge; Byram Snags B’Ville Tourney

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Westlake Crowned Kings at Croton Tourney; Stepinac, Fox Lane Shine Down South

By Ray Gallagher, Examiner Sports Editor @Directrays
In a finish for the ages, Lakeland’s Logan “Shi” Shiland (middle), Anthony Jennings (R) and Andrew Mendel (24) all get high in an effort to clamp down on Yorktown’s Brandon Montero (4) in the Hornets’ improbable 66-63 come-from-behind win over the visiting Huskers.

It appears as though most of Westchester is chock-full-of hoops goodness this winter, and places like Lakeland (5-1) and Walter Panas (5-0) are jacked and juiced for a run for the roses.

Nobody has ever really seriously considered a Lakeland vs. Walter Panas Section 1 Class A title game would ever come to fruition; until 2022, a year in which both clubs could find themselves making deep runs in March of 2023 based on the early returns. We will be lucky enough to see the two league rivals square off twice in the preamble to the tournament, and many coaches have touted the intra-district rivals as serious challengers for the coveted gold ball. Imagine what that would look like. We’d be down with the sickness of this marquee matchup, but there will be many obstacles in the path to such a party as we’re witnessing some very good ball being played in places like reigning Class A champion Poughkeepsie, which, while struggling out of the gate at 0-2 could foil such a plan in the end; Fox Lane (2-2), which will come out of its league having faced a grizzled schedule; Tappan Zee (3-0), which is always a pesky thorn in the side; Somers (1-1), which is already up to speed after a lengthy run for the state roses on the grid. Yup, Class A hoops will be a blast this winter, so saddle up and come along for the ride. 

The Panas vs. Somers’ finale –  in the 26th annual Michael DePaoli Memorial Basketball Tournament – saw the host Tuskers have the ball and the last crack at victory before the Panthers came up with a clutch stop to prevail in a 58-56 triumph. Again, Panas senior G Alex Tavarez was a whirling dervish, going for a game-high 29 points, including 10 in the fourth to infuriate the Tusker faithful.

“They beat Ossining last night by 15 after we barely beat them the night before, so we knew going in this was going to be a tough game, one we could not take lightly,” said Tavarez, averaging over 25 PPG. “The biggest thing for us going into the year was developing chemistry, but now our goal this year is the section title and make it to states.”

Panas wing Cayden Turner added three second-half 3’s, including a big one down the stretch, to thwart the Somers comeback attempt behind 24 points from Tusker senior swingman Matt Fitzsimons (4 3’s), who came off the gridiron looking smoother than ever this weekend. Dillon Chenard added 11 for the Panthers. Somers guards Andrew Violante and Nate Cohen dropped 10 apiece while Dylan Ingraham went for nine.

Panas senior G Derek Mojica launches J against D from Somers senior F Matt Fitzsimons in Panthers’ 58-56 win over host Tuskers.

“You have to be tough to win tough road games,” Panas Coach Mike Auerbach said. “It’s not going to be pretty when you play a road game against good teams, and Somers is a really good team. You gotta find kids who step up and make a play late, like Cayden Turner did when he hit that big 3 for us to put us up late. You love it to be pretty but you’ll take whatever you can get to win it. We had some key contributions, especially defensively, from guys other than Tavarez, who just finds ways to win close games. We feel good about everybody defensively. We’ve got seven or eight guys who can press, who can run and rebound for us.”

Tavarez dropped 34 points, including 12 from downtown, a pair of dunks and his 1,000th career point to open the week in a 62-45 drubbing of Pelham before literally stealing a 59-57 win over OSSINING with a steal and buzzer-beating layup in the opening round of the Somers Tournament. Tavarez, with 1,059 career points, now sits at No.2 on the all-time scoring list at Panas, just 64 points behind Scott Ganelas (1,123 – 1979-82).

Tavarez added 10 caroms, four assists and seven steals against good Pelham club.

Against Pelham (2-2), Tyler Greene (10 points, 6 assists, 5 boards) and Derek Mojica (6 points) each dropped a pair of 3’s in the first quarter and Cayden Turner (6 points, 4 boards, 4 assists) hit twice from distance in the third. Panas C Dillon Chenard had 10 rebounds and four blocks

“We didn’t play a great first half,” Auerbach said. “They were doing some things defensively we hadn’t seen yet in scrimmages or games but still led 27-22 at the half.  Tavarez needed 28 points entering the game to reach the 1,000-point milestone. He had a monster second half, scoring 24 points after the break, 34 in total to hit the 1,000-point mark midway through the fourth quarter. 

Pleasantville F Peter Choundas skies high to meet his maker and blocks a shot in the Class B Panthers’ 47-36 win over host Sleepy Hollow where the Panthers improved to 2-1 on the season.

“The team effort, especially in the second half was great,” Auerbach said. “Cayden Turner and Jerry Smallwood did a great job pressuring the Pelham guards full court for 32 minutes. Dillon Chenard anchored the back end of the defense pulling in 10 rebounds and blocking four shots. “His presence at the back of our press allows our guards to be aggressive and take chances all over the court,” Auerbach said of the lengthy Chenard.

By scoring his 1,000th point, Tavarez became only the third boy in school history to reach that plateau. He now sits second overall just 61 points behind Scott Ganales for the all-time scoring leader at Panas.

“He’s got a great shot to become the all-time leading scorer in school history on the boys side sometime within the next month,” Auerbach said.

Against Ossining, the Pride cut the deficit to four at 32-28 with just over 5:00 to play in the third and took a 39-38 lead open fourth, but Tavarez hit a layup with seven seconds left, stole the inbound and did his best Dennis Johnson impression (just Google it) by stealing the inbound and scoring again for the win.

“That was one of the wildest games I’ve ever been a part of,” Auerbach admitted. “We played a really good first half. It was the best half of basketball Dillon Chenard has played for us. He was the best player on both ends for 16 minutes, finishing with nine points, 15 rebounds, 4 blocks. I think we hit a bit of a wall in the second half.  The emotional game Tuesday plus not going terribly deep down the bench yet, I think caught up with us a bit in the second half.  Ossining has a solid group of athletes too and were very active on the defensive end making it tough on us to find anything easy. Their front line took over as well. The 6’3 athletic types, of which Ossining has a couple, are an Achilles for us right now as we don’t match up great.”

The last minute or so from Tavarez was special.  He scored nine points in the final 49 seconds, with all of Ossining’s defensive attention on him. 

“Obviously, we were fortunate to catch a break on the final play when they turned over the inbounds pass, but we did a lot of things well as a group in the final minute to be in that position,” Auerbach admitted. “We have a tough schedule. The quality of teams in Northern Westchester is as good as it’s been in a while. We’re going to need to keep finding ways to make plays late in tight games.”

The Pride (2-3) were led by Isaiah Ahlers (17 points, 5 rebounds, 4 steals), Dominique Bautista (15 points, 6 rebounds) and Jaiden Newton (13 points, 8 boards).

SOMERS then sent the Pride packing with a 59-37 win behind a terrific effort from Fitzsimons, who led the way with 21 points, including a cross-court steal and swinging slam dunk while Cohen (14 points) and Violante (12) were big contributors.

Pleasantville forward Etai Nunberg tosses up a one-hander in the lane during the first quarter of Friday afternoon’s 47-36 Panther win at Sleepy Hollow.

LAKELAND erased a 17-point deficit in a playoff-like atmosphere to edge YORKTOWN, 66-63, on a last-second layup from Grady Leonard, which was preceded by a career night from senior G Chris White-Luciano who knocked down 26 points, 22 in the second half.

“Our motto this year is ‘Why not us’,” Whyte-Luciano said. “We knew we played a bad first half, but the coaches challenged us to win this, so we took that to heart. We just went out there and played as hard as we could. I’ve been in the zone like this my freshman year at Iona and in AAU tournaments, but I loved the feeling in here tonight, I loved it. I’m thankful to everyone who came out tonight to cheer us on.”

Yorktown was cruising behind solid efforts from Billy Feeks (18 points, 4 assists), Justin Price (16 points, 5 rebounds, 4 steals) and Brandon Montero (15 points, 10 rebounds).

“Yorktown shot lights out in the first half, but our kids didn’t quit,” Lakeland Coach Steve Fallo said. “Give Yorktown all the credit in the world, they played their asses off. But we just told our kids, take your time, don’t panic, we’ll get back in this.”

When Yorkton’s Price drained a 75-foot buzzer-beater at the half, it looked like Lakeland had no chance. The youthful Huskers (3-2) went into the locker room with all the momentum and had been playing with the poise of seasoned veterans.

“Chris got hot, Grady made a couple of buckets and the game changes,” Fallo said. “Lakeland/Yorktown, that’s all I can say. Somebody had to lose, unfortunately. I’m just glad it wasn’t us.”

Yorktown Coach Mark Pavella was clearly agonized by the loss and a couple of non-calls by officials he questioned down the stretch.

“We gave that one away,” Pavella said. “We’ll learn from this, though.”

BREWSTER won its second straight game last Monday, taking down Edgemont, 71-67, in a hard fought contest where the Bears (2-2) came up big at the charity stripe, making all nine of its attempts. Matthew Thompson played a big role for Brewster with eight points, 12 rebounds and four assists. Brewster’s All-League senior C Conner Griffin, who has been a stud to date, shined in this matchup, scoring a career-high 29 points and securing his third straight double-double with 13 rebounds; he also added two blocks on the defensive end. Bears sophomore Will Dignan stepped up big time, scoring 14 points, dishing four assists, and was able to ice the game with two key free throws late in the contest.

“This was the second game in a row that the underclassman was able to help secure the victory,” first-year Bears Coach Michael Nicastro said. 

Steven Switzer also added 10 points, five rebounds and five assists in the Bears win.

“Despite the win, we need to be more disciplined on defense and limit turnovers in upcoming contests,” Nicastro admitted.

The Bears looked to continue their win streak in Friday night showdown for Putnam County supremacy at MAHOPAC, but it was the INDIANS (caps for emphasis) who prevailed, 55-51, with a solid fourth-quarter run (Brewster led by five after three quarters).

Mahopac G Jake Couzens (16 points, 6 rebounds) had one of his finest nights as an Indian. Joey Koch (9 points, 8 rebounds, 3 steals), John Kearney (11 points, 4 assists, 4 steals), Liam Scanlon (4 points, 4 rebounds) and Liam Dodd (5 points, 4 boards) all made contributions for the INDIANS.

Griffin led the way for the Bears once again, logging his fourth double-double in as many contests with 24 points and 14 rebounds. Dignan and Thompson chipped in with 10 and nine points, respectively, with Thompson adding nine rebounds and four assists in a well-rounded effort. Switzer did likewise with nine points, five rebounds, three assists and four steals. The Bears put together a solid defensive effort against Mahopac after giving up 67 to Edgemont earlier in the week and will look to build on that.

“We were tested by a good Brewster team and responded to adversity the way we talk about and expect to,” first-year Mahopac Coach Matt Calabro said. “Our bigs battled with Griffin, who is a very good player. Scanlon, Dodd and Dedvukaj all gave us everything they had. Jake Couzens and Joey Koch continue to lead. Danny Koch was very impactful, controlling the game and being aggressive, and John Kearney had a helluva fourth quarter. Our fans were great, nothing better than a Friday night high school basketball win!”

That was almost the case on Wednesday, too, but the Indians squandered a seven-point lead in a 54-50 loss to John Jay-CR. Couzens (20 points, 5 rebounds), Joey Koch (14 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals), Scanlon (6 points, 9  rebounds), Dodd (5 points, 7 rebounds) and Kearney (4 points 5 rebounds, 2 steals) were all impactful but could not produce enough down the stretch.

“With a seven-point lead in the fourth quarter on a night we didn’t shoot well, I was hoping to get a few buckets early in the fourth to get a bigger lead, but we failed to do that,” Calabro admitted. “We got punched by Jay in that fourth quarter and we didn’t respond the way we needed to. We need to learn from this so we can win these games in the future.”

FOX LANE had a solid showing at an eight-team tournament at Boys’ Latin in Maryland where the Foxes defeated Stevenson, 47-40 behind an all-tournament effort from Niko Dent (24 points, 13 rebounds, 2 assists). Chris Redhead (7 points, 5 rebounds) and Matt Toscano (5 points, 8 assists) were key for the Foxes, who also knocked off Boys Latin (MD), 51-43, behind a career-effort from freshman G Arthur Shevick (19 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists), who has shown immediate promise. Toscano (15 points, 5 assists, 3 steals, 4 rebounds) had another big game, and senior Charlie Shevick (7 points, 6 rebounds, 2 steals) did as well.

“It was an exciting trip for the Foxes as Baltimore is a hot bed for basketball,” Fox Lane Coach Mike Tomaselli said. “We had a tough game on Friday vs. a very skilled and talented SEED School team. We rebounded well on Saturday and Sunday with a pair of impressive wins. Niko Dent was fantastic all weekend with his effort and scoring. Arthur had an unbelievable game on Sunday and made some huge shots in the fourth quarter to propel us to a win. Matt Toscano, Chris Redhead, Charlie Shevick and Conrad Hardie were great on defense and had some big plays on the offensive end all weekend. We got some quality minutes out of Kevin New, James Minottir, Eli Daglio and Arthur Shevick as well.

“Overall, our defense has been fantastic,” he added, “and we have played a very tough schedule that will hopefully prepare us for the rest of the season. We head back to Section 1 play, battle tested with our games vs. Mount Vernon and a trip to Baltimore.”


WHITE PLAINS announced its intentions to contend in Thursday’s 49-48 win over Scarsdale when Logan McCormack got hot in the second half and dropped 16 on the Red Raiders and Menzy Carden went off in the first half for 10 of his 15 in the first half. The two hot-shot Tigers played a virtual tag-team on Scarsdale.

“That’s exactly how it went,” White Plains Coach Spencer Mayfield said.

Mayfield’s Tigers followed up with a 62-45 win over Eastchester to improve to 3-0. McCormack went for 22 points and another 25 from Carden were dominant factors in the win.

HORACE GREELEY went on the road and beat CARMEL, 45-41, behind Nick Tasso’s 17 points and seven boards while Justin Potack added 15 points for the Class A Quakers (2-2), who knocked off Nanuet, 45-24, in an excellent defensive battle.

The Rams (1-1) saw Aiden White and Jack Salisbury hit for 17 and 10, respectively.

Valhalla senior standout Basiaka Butcher rises for a jump shot in the second half of the Vikings’ 68-61 overtime victory over visiting Hastings on Friday evening.


BYRAM HILLS earned a tough 50-46 win over a talented HALDANE team last Tuesday behind sophomore G Brody Ceisler’s career-high 22 points and seven rebounds. Luke Berliner added a well-round effort with eight points, 10 boards and five assists while Luca Scali and Sean Seigel each went for eight points.

All-Section Blue Devil Matteo Cervone scored a team-high 18 points and Ben Bozsik added 11 for Haldane.

“We played a solid game on both ends against a very good team,” Haldane Coach Joe Virgadamo said. “I like how we were battling for loose balls and rebounds and we moved the ball well on offense. We are currently 2-3, but this tough and challenging schedule is going to pay off by the end of the year.”

Will Bradley scored 18 points for Haldane in a 69-52 loss to a very good VALHALLA club.

“We were down two going into the fourth and Valhalla got real hot and went on a nice run in the end,” Virgadamo said “I’m proud of my guys having the ability to move on from this tough loss and have a great practice the following day. We’re having a lot of different guys as our leading scorers and we are going to be a tough team to defend by the end of the season.”

Byram Hills then went on to defeat PEEKSKILL, 49-39, Friday in the opening round of the Bronxville Tournament. The Bobcats were led by junior G Tyson Repa (15 points) and Scali (12 points) while Peekskill’s Brown and Thaimes each finished with 11.

The Bobcats then went on to win the Bronxville Tournament, 61-50, Saturday night. 

“A total team effort,” Byram Coach Ted Repa said.

Tyson Repa brough home MVP honors after dropping 16 points to go with eight caroms and six dimes. Scali earned an all-tourney nod after scoring 14 points to go with six assists. Bobcat sophomore C Zac Efobi returned to the lineup with an impressive double-double (16 points, 11 boards, and Luke Berliner was just shy of a double-double with 10 points and nine boards.

Valhalla hung tough in OT to defeat Hastings, 68-61, behind 25 points from hotshot Basiaka Butcher, including a monster slam in the waning moments, and another 19 points from Mikaele Martinez. Chris Purchia chipped in with nine for the Vikings (3-0), who have the look of a legit Class B contender should they do a better job of closing. Valhalla squandered an eight-point, fourth-quarter lead before holding firm for the win.

PLEASANTVILLE improved to 2-1 when the Panthers went on the road to Sleepy Hollow for a 47-36 win with Caleb Bronkema leading the way with 13 points, including four big free throws in the final minute of OT to seal the win. Etai Nunberg threw down a pair of big dunks, including a one-handed royal flush off a steal, in the Panthers’ 56-24 win over host Pawling.

PUTNAM VALLEY chalked up its first W of the season last Tuesday in a 44-37 defeat of defending Section 1 Class B champion Bronxville. Senior F Sean Holzman paced the Tigers (1-3) with 13 points and sophomore wing James Appostolico added 12. The Tigers showed a much-improved interior defense to hold the Broncos (0-1) in check.

An impressive WESTLAKE team chalked up a 42-37 road win at Dobbs Ferry to open the week before finishing first in the 41st annual Croton-Harmon Mayclim Tournament over the weekend where the Wildcats worked a 49-36 win over Edgemont in the opening round before defeating the host Tigers in Saturday’s title tilt, 52-35, to win the fabled tournament, which has stood the test of time. Christian Occhipinti was named MVP and Nick Castellano drew an All-Tournament nod. Castellano led all scorers with 20 points. Occhipinti (11), freshman Marcus Jackette (7) and Jack Neglia (6) were primary contributors.

Against Edgemont, Jack Neglia (14 points), Nick Castellano (13), Occhipinti (8) and Marcus Jackette (4) all found the scoring sheet.

Against Dobbs, Nick Castellano led the Wildcats (4-0) with 16 points while Neglia (10) and Marc Malandruccolo (6) hit some clutch buckets.

The Wildcats opened the season with a 73-26 whipping of Keio, who had a tough time containing Castellano (16 points), Albert Mehmedovic (11), Neglia (9), Jackette (9) and Luis Beato (8).

“A 4-0 start is a first in the modern era with the exception of the COVID year,” Wildcat Coach Chad Charney said. “Christian Occhipinti was the MVP of the Croton tourney as he filled up the stat sheet both nights and supplied the big baskets down the stretch in both the Edgemont game and Croton game. Nick Castellano was all tournament and scored 21 points on Saturday night. Nick has three double doubles in four games. We were up 11 at half in the Croton game, they cut it to two early in the fourth and we pulled away 52-35 to finish. We play Wednesday and Thursday for our first home games with the late start because of football.”


STEPINAC is taking the City of Palms Tournament by storm. The Crusaders competed in what some say is universally regarded as the top high school holiday basketball tournament in the USA. And Stepinac left little doubt in a 52-44 opening-round win over Vashon High (MO) behind the all-around effort of the ‘Boogie Man’, Boogie Fland, who went for 24 points, three rebounds and two steals. Danny Carbuccia (14 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals) was up for a prime-time effort and Ben Lyttle added five points.

In the quarterfinals against nationally-ranked Imhotep (PA), the Crusaders suffered a 46-44 loss despite Fland’s 12 points, four boards and two assists. Braylan Ritvo (8 points, 3 rebounds), Carbuccia (8 points, 6 steals, 3 assists) and Lyttle (7 points, 6 boards. 2 steals) were prime contributors as the Crusaders continue to prep for the CHSAA title in March. Next up in the tourney was Tuesday’s game against either Christopher Columbus (FL) or Myers Park (NC).

Examiner-area coaches are encouraged to hit up sports editor Ray Gallagher at for inclusion in our weekly Hoops Notebook. Tag him @Directrays on Twitter or kindly text stats and comments to the number he has provided.

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