Mount Vernon was rolling right along for the first two months of the season. Nobody, it seemed, was going to stand in the way of the reigning Class AA state champs.
Then came the season finale on February 8, at home against Scarsdale.
That was the days the Raiders turned Section 1 on its ear, blowing past the Knights behind a jaw-dropping 34-point effort from Nash Goldman. It was Mount Vernon’s first Section 1 loss of the season, it’s first defeat at home in eight years, and Scarsdale’s first win over the Knights since 1997.
And the first sign that the Gold Ball in 2018 isn’t a given to Mount Vernon.
The question now is whether Scarsdale can do it again?
Same teams, same place but far greater stakes as Mount Vernon and Scarsdale meet in the Section 1 quarterfinals on Friday, headling a four-game slate in Class AA for the right to play at the County Center on Wednesday.
Here is my look at each of the four matchups in Class AA, with my predictions. As you read the breakdown of the four Class AA quarterfinals below, click to the ‘Play’ button on this week’s “KDJ Show” podcast below:
SECTION 1 CLASS AA QUARTERFINALS
Friday, February 23, 2018
No. 4 Horace Greeley (16-5) vs. No. 12 Suffern (12-9)
Time: 5 p.m.
Place: Horace Greeley High School
Players to Watch: Horace Greeley — Christopher Melis, Soph., G/F; Brandon Gecaj, Sr., F; Jeremy Block, Sr., G. Greg Karr, Sr., G/F; Suffern — Will Krebs, 6-4, Jr., G/F; Jimmie Warren, 6-3, Sr., G; Nathan Emmanuel, 6-3, Sr., F.
Scouting report: Before the season, few would have projected either of these to be headed to the final four in Class AA. But Greeley had a breakthrough season under first-year coach Felix Nicodemo and Suffern survived a grueling Rockland Class AA league and upset No. 5 New Rochelle in the opening round. The Quakers have been such a streaky team all season and they’re back on one of their runs. Christopher Melis is enjoying a breakout season and the pieces around him fit so well together. For Suffern to pull off another road upset, they need another efficient effort where Jimmie Warren and Will Krebs run the offense, limit turnovers and cut down on Greeley’s open 3-point looks.
KDJ’s Pick: Horace Greeley 62, Suffern 58. This could be the type of game where neither team has more than a four-point lead the entire way. Greeley is back on track after a late-season stumble and will take Suffern very seriously.
No. 3 Mamaroneck (17-4) vs. No. 6 Spring Valley (14-7)
Time: 7 p.m.
Place: Mamaroneck High School
Players to Watch: Mamaroneck — Isiah Thomas, 5-10, Sr., G; Jared Bader, 6-3, Sr., G; Will Sarkozi, 6-5, Jr., F; James Manetta, 6-0, Sr., G. Spring Valley — Mavenson Therneus, 6-4, Sr., G/F; Xavier Gibbs, 6-1, Sr., G; Anderson Italien, 6-5, Sr., C; Elijah Bishun, 5-8, Sr., G.
Scouting report: This is potentially the biggest game Mamaroneck has played in Section 1 in over a decade. With a trip to the County Center on the line, the Tigers host a Spring Valley team that has finally hit its stride and has shown great late-game poise. Therneus is due for a signature moment against a quality defensive Mamaroneck squad. If Spring Valley can stay dominant on the offensive glass and create extra opportunities, they could pull off the road win.
KDJ’s Pick: Spring Valley 62, Mamaroneck 59. Really labored over this pick and considered going back on my prediction from Tuesday’s KDJ Show. A big factor is sticking with Spring Valley was how the Rockland County teams have performed so far in the AA playoffs. This is just a difficult matchup for Mamaroneck against a Spring Valley can push the tempo and own the paint. Buckle up for what could be the game of the day.
Check out highlights from Spring Valley’s victory over Clarkstown North in the season finale:
No. 10 Clarkstown North (11-10) vs. No. 18 Ramapo (8-14)
Time: 3 p.m.
Place: Clarktsown North High School
Players to Watch: Clarkstown North — Nick Ovchinnikoff, 6-2, Sr., G/F; Michael Louzada, 5-11, Sr., G; Jake Katz, 6-3, Sr., F. Ramapo — Franc Wilson, G; Elijah Fenton, G; Brian Aldeus, G.
Scouting report: Two Cinderella teams square off for the right to play at the County Center. Ramapo won two wild road games to get this point, beating Ketcham in overtime in the outbracket before stunning No. 2 Clarkstown South in the opening round. The Rams will have the best player on the floor in Nick Ovchinnikoff, a dynamic play-maker who rarely comes off the floor. Ovchinnikoff will get his points. The key for Ramapo is preventing that second scorer from emerging. Louzada is coming off a strong effort against Fox Lane in the opening round. The longer the Gryphons can stay in this game, the better their chances of a third straight upset.
KDJ’s Pick: Ramapo 54, Clarkstown North 53. The way these two teams have played of late tilts the matchup in Ramapo’s favor. North doesn’t go deep into its bench and has struggled down the stretch. Ramapo is a team that never backs down and has displayed tremendous late-game poise. As long as the Gryphons don’t find themselves in too big of a hole at any point early, they’ll find a way to come through again late.
Check out highlights from Ramapo’s upset win over Clarkstown South in the opening round:
No. 1 Mount Vernon (19-2) vs. No. 9 Scarsdale (14-7)
Time: 5 p.m.
Place: Mount Vernon High School
Players to Watch: Mount Vernon — Jason Douglas-Stanley, 6-2, Sr., G; Demetre Roberts, 5-7, Sr., PG; Brandon Scott, 6-3, Sr., F; Chase Johnson, 6-1, Sr., F. Scarsdale — Nash Goldman, 6-1, Sr., PG; Will Hoffmann, 6-3, Sr., F; Jared Schulman, 6-1, Sr., G; Leo Katz, 6-3, Sr., F.
Scouting report: There weren’t many teams in Class AA bracket that had a realistic shot of being Mount Vernon. And Scarsdale is probably the only one not the least bit intimidated by the Knights’ mystique. In this rematch of the Section 1 Class AA title game, the pressure is on Mount Vernon as much as ever. To go on the road and beat Mount Vernon in its home gym twice in the span of two weeks would be an all-time feat in Section 1 basketball history. Mount Vernon cannot be careless defensively and limit Nash Goldman’s looks from behind the arc. Scarsdale’s ability to possess the ball deep into the shot clock, as it did so flawlessly against North Rockland in the opening round, and still create open looks is exceptional. Mount Vernon will be tested as much mentally as physically in this matchup.
KDJ’s Pick: Mount Vernon 72, Scarsdale 68. Another nail-biter in this Class AA bracket. But the return Demetre Roberts will be the difference down the stretch for the Knights. Mount Vernon gets through a big time test here and then takes that momemtum to another Section 1 championship.
Check out highlights from Scarsdale’s win over North Rockland in the opening round: