Playoff Preview: Class B breakdown, KDJ’s picks
Basketball returned to the Westchester County Center for one day last week with four Class C and D semifinals. But on Monday night, the
Large crowds are expected in White Plains as the Class B boys and girls semifinals take the stage in the storied arena. Briarcliff, Putnam Valley and Irvington have both of their programs represented on the slate as they, and Valhalla girls and Blind Brook boys, are all vying for a spot in Friday’s Section 1 final at Pace University.
Here is my look at the Class B semifinals on Monday. Check back soon for a breakdown and predictions on the girls semifinals:
Section 1 Class B Boys Semifinals
Monday, February 26
at Westchester County Center
No. 2 Irvington (19-3) vs. No. 3 Briarcliff (18-4)
Time: 4:45 P.M.
How they got here: Irvington defeated No. 15 Rye Neck in the first round 63-42 and defeated No. 7 Valhalla in the quarters, 65-52. Briarcliff knocked off rival and reigning champ, No. 14 Pleasantville, 52-24, and upended No. 6 North Salem 80-34 in the quarters.
Regular season meetings: Did not play
Players to Watch: Irvington — Colby Martins, 5-10, Jr., F; Sidney Thybulle, 6-6, Jr., F; Chris Friedlander, 5-8, Sr., G; James Rhodes, 6-4, Soph., F, Brant Steinberg, 5-8, Soph., G; Thomas Corrigan, Sr., F. Briarcliff — Jackson Gonseth, 6-4, Sr., F; Spencer McCann, 6-5, Sr., F; Jack Ryan, 5-11, Sr., G; Miles Jones, 6-1, Jr., G; Anthony Panarese, 5-10, Soph., G.
Scouting Report: Two teams that were labled championship favorites in the preseason meet in what should be the best game of the day and one of the top matchups of the week. Briarcliff went out and played the most difficult schedule of any Class B team and are on a 10-game winning streak entering this game. The Bears assemble a lineup that fits so well together with Jones the facilitator, Ryan the scorer, Gonseth and McCann the bigs inside and Panarese doing all of the dirty work on defense. Irvington, though, is a team that can match up at every position and they have the most dynamic player in Class B this season in Colby Martins. The junior guard scored 29 of his 31 in the second half against Valhalla has been setting a tone of confidence that the Bulldogs feed off of.
KDJ’s Pick: Briarcliff 58, Irvington 55. What could ultimately determine this game down the stretch is experience. Briarcliff won a Section 1 title two years ago and lost in last year’s final. Irvington has zero County Center experience, which often matters at this level. The Bears have played championship-caliber basketball for the past month and are primed to reach to the final again.
No. 1 Putnam Valley (17-4) vs. No. 4 Blind Brook (17-4)
Time: 8:15 p.m.
How they got here: Putnam Valley had a bye in the opening round and defeated No. 8 Westlake 54-44 in the quarter. Blind Brook beat No. 13 Croton-Harmon 52-33 in the first round before knocking off No. 5 Dobbs Ferry 48-40 in the quarters.
Regular season meetings: Putnam Valley went on the road and beat Blind Brook 47-36 on Jan. 22.
Players to Watch: Putnam Valley — Darnell Shillingford, 6-2, Jr., F, T.J. Brescia, 6-3, Jr., F, Austin Fabiano, 5-8, Jr., G; Ryan Soto, 6-0, Jr., PG. Blind Brook — Jake DiGiansante, 5-11, Sr., G, Mike Bucci, 5-9, Sr., PG; Alex Feuerstein, 6-1, Sr., G; Hudson Powell. 6-5, Sr., F.
Scouting Report: If you watched the first matchup of these two teams, you saw a Blind Brook team that was overmatched inside and had no way to defend Darnel Shillingford. Expect a different mindset for the Trojans here as they are a team that adapts so well under coach Mike Welsh in his tenure. Blind Brook put together an eight-game winning streak after that Jan. 22 loss and has seen Mike Bucci emerged as a knockdown shooter from behind the arc. Put Valley will have to make shots of their own against Blind Brook’s zone defense, which has continued to improve over the past month.
KDJ’s Pick: Putnam Valley 51, Blind Brook 50. Like the first game, this is such a tough call. So much will depend on whether Blind Brook can walk into the County Center and spread the floor with 3-point shots. They went through dry spells against Dobbs Ferry but were so overwhelming on defense it didn’t matter. It will matter against a Put Valley team and get out in space and has an imposing centerpiece to the offense in Shillingford. The Tigers should do enough to head to another title game.
Highlights: Blind Brook 48, Dobbs Ferry 40 (2/22/18):