Sunday was the perfect day to catch your breath. The Section 1 schedule was empty after the final games were played on Saturday afternoon and, with a heavy rain falling all afternoon, you could sit back and soak in the projected playoff brackets before their official release on Monday mid-day.
We won’t go deep into the actual matchups just yet since they are not official. But it’s worth reflecting on the last of the 710 games played in the section over the final weekend, as well as look at the CHSAA as it enters the final 48 hours of the regular season.
5 Takeaways from basketball’s final weekend
1. Stepinac has all the pieces to make a deep playoff run. Let’s start with the Crusaders, who followed up Friday’s convincing 93-69 win at home over Mount St. Michael by cruising past St. Mary’s of Rutherford (N.J), the No. 10 ranked team in the state, 63-47.
If we saw anything on Friday night against Mount — and you can watch the entire game below on Stepinac’s YouTube broadcast — it’s that the Crusaders bounced-back exceedingly well from the second-half letdown against Iona Prep. Stepinac played crisp, unselfish and kept running (its greatest strength) all the way through.
Alan Griffin was sensational again, pouring in 26 points, eight rebounds and five assists. R.J. Davis, the prized sophomore, added 20 points, eight assists and six rebounds, Ed Minaya had 15 points, and A.J. Griffin 14 points, 13 rebounds and four blocks.
This team may have needed Saturday’s emotional loss to Iona Prep to refocus and gear up for a deep playoff run.
FULL GAME: Stepinac 93, Mount St. Michael 69 (2/9/18): First ever full game broadcast on the Stepinac Sports Network on YouTube
2. Scarsdale might be on to something special. How in the world did Scarsdale controversial lose its coach on a Friday, rally back to win at home on Senior Day the following Tuesday, upset defending state champion Mount Vernon on the road two days after that, and then rally in the fourth quarter to beat a 15-win Tappan Zee in the finale on Saturday night. That’s four rather remarkable things in eight days.
The answer? Well, Nash Goldman is one. The senior point guard was sensational every step over the past week, especially his 34-point effort against Mount Vernon (LoHud.com). And Justin Washington, who replaced Bill Murphy as head coach, has done as good of a job handling the emotion of the team both on and off the floor. Right now, Scarsdale is writing a script that two weeks from now might not be believable.
The speedbump to destiny, of course, is a potential date back at Mount Vernon in the Section 1 Class AA since Scarsdale is projected by a No. 9 seed and the Knights are 1.
Beating Mount Vernon in its gym is brutally tough. Doing it twice in the span of 10 days might be impossible. But are you ready to count this Raiders team out at this point? I’m not.
3. Clarkstown North played Section 1’s toughest schedule. If you scan down the Bonus Point column on the Bracketology standings, you’ll notice the team with the most is Clarkstown North with 22, therefore giving them the most difficult schedule in Section 1 for 2017-18.
That’s a testament to how good the Rockland County Class AA league was this season. Take away Ramapo and the 5 Rockland AA schools (Clarkstown South, Spring Valley, Clarkstown North, Suffern and North Rockland) were a combined 35-15 against the rest of Section 1 (.700 winning percentage).
The only league better was the Southern AA of league with Mount Vernon, which was 51-19 overall outside of league (.729).
Clarkstown North played only 3 teams that didn’t give them a Bonus Point — Ramapo twice and White Plains — and faced 4 different teams that were 2-Bonus Point teams, including Clarkstown South twice. North lost to South once in 2OT and another time on a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
North was beaten on Saturday afternoon by Spring Valley in a game the Rams just faded away in over the final 8 minutes. Is it fatigue from the season? North is slated to be a No. 10 seed in the Class AA playoffs with a first-round date with Fox Lane, which they beat this season, and a potential quarterfinal matchup against, who else, Clarkstown South.
HIGHLIGHTS: Spring Valley 55, Clarkstown North 45 (2/10/18). Xavier Gibbs of Spring Valley scored the 1,000th point of his career in the win.
4. Nothing would surprise me in the Class B tournament. Yeah, this one should be pretty obvious at this point. Briarcliff is probably playing the best basketball at this point entering the postseason.
Put Valley has perhaps the best road to the final four. Irvington is the most dynamic with the talent they have at all five starting positions. Blind Brook plays the best defense. North Salem features the conference’s best player in Kendrick Tchoua and is the ultimate wild card heading into the playoffs.
Then there’s about 5-6 teams like Dobbs, Valhalla, Woodlands, Hastings and Westlake that can challenge the five teams above on any given night. We could easily be setting up for a wild Class B tournament with no defined favorite but five teams you could make a serious case for.
5. Panas is the area’s hottest team entering the playoffs. You never want to make comparisons to past championship teams in a program. But the way the Panas is entering the postseason in Class A reminds me a little bit of how they did when they won the Gold Ball in 2014: Respected but not regarded as a serious threat to the proven powers.
Why not? All the Panthers have done over the past 6 weeks. Saturday’s victory over Putnam Valley on the road was their 11th in a row overall and 13th straight against Section 1. The only L in there was against Section 9 juggernaut Pine Bush.
Panas’ 3 Section 1 losses came against Putnam Valley in an 88-79 3OT epic; at the buzzer to Rye when Max Samberg made a running 3-pointer; and then an ugly 17-point loss to Somers, who the Panthers beat the second time around as part of a run to a league championship.
The 4 teams that beat Panas have a combined 60-16 record. Rye is the No. 1 seed in Class A. Put Valley the top seed in B. Pine Bush is a state-title contender and reigning AA champs in Section 9.
Brandon Hodge and Brandon Ramos have carried the team into serious title contention and Saturday was the perfect example of that. The senior duo accounted for 40 of the team’s 52 points, including all 21 in the second half.
Highlights: Panas 52, Putnam Valley 43 (2/10/18). Brandon Ramos scored 21 points and Brandon Hodge had 19 in the win:
Check back for updates on Monday when Section 1 releases the OFFICIAL boys and girls basketball seeds. Twitter: @KDJMedia1