Championship Week: Top 50 Games of the 2010s – Nos. 50-41

As you probably know, I love basketball. And I really love Championship Week.

The greatest tradition in high school sports in our area — the Section 1 final four of boys and girls basketball — is all returning in full to where it belongs this March: at the Westchester County Center (Thank you Todd Santabarbara). Seven days, 26 games, 9 championships.

Section 1 in the 2010s featured the intersection of a few of seminal moments in its history: the explosion of social media, the birth of the MSG Varsity, two worldwide viral shots, and the accelerated growth of streaming (LocalLive).

Here, I weave it all together with an extensive trip chronicling the most unforgettable moments through a decade of evolution. Thanks to help from MSG/News 12 Varsity, Pace University, LocalLive and some my own KDJ Media archives, I’ll reintroduce old video archives for the first time. The games in the Top 50, as well as over 100 more, will soon be available on my YouTube channel. Subscribe here:

Presenting the Top 50 boys and girls games from Championship Week from the last decade (2010-2019). I include all semifinals and final games, whether they were played at the County Center, Pace University or even one home gym. I’ll count down backwards from 50, giving 10 at a time and culminating with my as the best game of the decade.

I’m proud to say that I witnessed every single game in this Top 50 as a reporter, broadcaster, videographer or as a fan. Enjoy.

Here’s the schedule of releases:
Feb. 19: Nos. 50-41
Feb 23: Nos. 40-31
Feb. 26: Nos. 30-21
Feb. 29: Nos. 20-11
March 3: Nos. 10-1



Date: February 27, 2018
Site: Westchester County Center

Video highlights by KDJ Media:

Game recap: Ardsley led by four at the half but managed just three points in the third quarter and was down 33-27 heading into the fourth. Zeke Blauner and Sean Casey came alive and buried one big shot after another. Blauner had 18 points and Casey added 11 and five rebounds. Mekhi Gray led Hen Hud with 15 points and six rebounds and Kyle James had 11 and eight.

The Hero: Zeke Blauner, Ardsley. The junior guard solidified in this game what many had realized in the previous month – he was among the most talented players in the section. He put the team on his shoulders late and made plays on both ends of the floor to win.

Why it’s Top 50: This was the game before the game. To get to that unforgettable championship — and the epic Julian McGarvey shot – the Panthers had to pull off an upset at the County Center against Hen Hud. Nobody thought the Panthers belonged here. They had survived a dramatic final minute in the first round against Somers and had gone on the road in the quarters and upset top-seeded Rye.

Lasting Image: The celebration in front of the Ardsley bench around coach Sean Cappiello felt more than just a semifinal victory. This team had bottomed-out on the County Center floor over a month earlier when they were crushed by Byram Hills at the Crusader Classic. The turnaround from then to the semifinals was staggering. And it was only the start.


Date: March 2, 2012
Site: Westchester County Center

Video highlights from MSG Varsity:

Game recap: No. 11 seed Poughkeepsie survived at last-second shot by Peekskill to reach the Class A title game. With the Red Devils down by four with 14 seconds to go, Robert Lyes hit a 3-pointer to pull within one. Poughkeepsie then turned it over on a five-second violation, giving Peekskill a last attempt but Ramon Searight’s corner 3 missed as time expired. Chandler Pierce had 21 points and 10 rebounds in the loss.

The Hero: D’Andre Smith. The junior guard scored 16 points while Devin Lawrence added 15 in the win.

Why it’s Top 50: Two programs that annually made the County Center had a rare head-to-head matchup in this semifinal.

Lasting Image: This game was the seeds being planted for the 2013 championship run by the Pioneers. In all honestly, Poughkeepsie nearly blew this game on a couple occasions in the fourth quarter and should never have been in the position in the closing seconds. Poughkeepsie lost in the final to Tappan Zee but ended a title drought of their own the following season.


Date: March 6, 2011
Site: Westchester County Center

Video highlights from MSG Varsity:

Game recap: Peekskill stormed back from a 21-point deficit to stun Pearl River in a showdown for their first ever sectional crown. Peekskill, whose only loss that regular season was to Murray Bergtraum (they beat Ossining and Irvington), trailed by 16 in the third quarter before bonding together. Tasia Nolan, who had 14 points and 15 rebounds, scored eight straight points on her own after that. Sheridan Taylor added 16 points and nine rebounds and Asia Jackson chipped in with 13 points. Jazmin Garcia took control in the fourth quarter and finished with 15 points. Peekskill used a 10-0 run in the fourth quarter to take the lead. Christa Scognamiglio led Pearl River with 19 points.

The Hero: Tasia Nolan was the tournament MVP but this team had no one single hero — just a terrific all-around team effort to capture the title.

Why it’s Top 50: There were two extremely talented teams matching up for four quarters. Only one Class A team from Section 1 captured a state title this decade and it was the 2011 Peekskill squad, which put the program back on the map after years of struggle with a 24-2 campaign. Pearl River, meanwhile, had such a talented core of returners that they won the 2012 Class A crown.

Lasting Image: You won’t see many girls basketball games with the physicality or the shot-making on both sides. Pearl River was the only team capable of running with Peekskill for four quarters through the postseason. And there was a sequence in the fourth where multiple players from both side dove into the Peekskill bench for a loose ball.


Date: February 28, 2018
Site: Westchester County Center

Video highlights from KDJ Media:

Game recap: Two Cinderella’s met at the County Center in what was a nail-biter from the opening tip. Mamaroneck led by four entering the fourth quarter and had flustered the Gryphons mightily on the defensive end. Ramapo tied the game with Anthony Simon put back an offensive rebound with 5.4 seconds left. Simon scored 14 with eight rebounds and four assists. Elijah Fenton added 11 points and 11 rebounds in the win.

The Hero: Ramapo coach Steve Loscher. The man worked some serious magic in the postseason for the 18th-seeded Gryphons. This was most memorable win of his career. See more about Ramapo’s remarkable run here:

Why it’s Top 50: Ramapo somehow, someway made it to the Class AA semifinals as the No. 18 seed. The Gryphons upset second-seeded Clarkstown South and No. 10 Clarkstown North to reach the final four. Ramapo barely even made the playoffs and was down in the second half of its outbracket game at Ketcham before rallying.

Lasting Image: This was best known around Ramapo as “The Doo Rag Game.” Ramapo coach Steve Loescher had been sporting a doo rag on the bench as a good luck charm in the postseason and it had worked. With his team trailing in the second half, Loescher put on the doo rag and his team responded. The Gryphons’ run ended with a loss to Mount Vernon in the Class AA final. But this was among the biggest long-shot playoff runs in Section 1 history.


Date: February 26, 2019
Site: Westchester County Center

Video highlights from KDJ Media:

Game recap: The Trojans were on their way into the offseason, trailing by 14 points late in the third quarter before storming back. Zach Zimmerman hit a pair of go-ahead free throws with 4.3 seconds to play to highlight a wild final two minutes. The lead changed or was tied five times, including a Sebastian Pacheco basket with 30 seconds left. Valhalla had the ball at halfcourt in the final seconds but had the inbound stolen to lift Blind Brook to the title game.

The Hero: Chris Bucci had 14 points for Blind Brook but made countless tough defensive plays throughout the second half comeback.

Why it’s Top 50: This is exactly the type of game that only happens at the County Center. Both teams entered with 19 victories on the season and engaged in a black-and-blue style showdown that you never wanted to end.

Lasting Image: You sat back and marveled at what this Blind Brook program continues to do year after year under coach Mike Welsh. Always a tough, disciplined group, this Trojans squad graduated five starters from a team that reached the sectional final the previous year and somehow clawed its way back.


Date: February 28, 2013
Site: Westchester County Center

Video highlights from MSG Varsity:

Game recap: One of the great marathons in tournament history finally came to a close when Maeve Parahus hit the go-ahead basket with 2:37 left in the second OT and then sealed it with free throws in the final seconds. She had 36 points. Christine O’Riordan was sensational in the fourth quarter, drilling a pair of 3-pointers to give the Falcons the lead before Missy Scognamiglio, playing on an injured ankle, hit two free throws with 14 seconds left to force OT.

The Hero: Maeve Parahus. Not even a question. This was probably the best career game for the future Manhattan standout.

Why it’s Top 50: The identity of the Albertus Magnus program for the better part of two decades is that it was never about one single player. But this game came down to the guts of Parahus down the stretch

Lasting Image: Missy Scognamiglio was figured to be lost in the first quarter when she rolled her ankle and thus ruining Pearl River’s chances. But the senior guard showed tremendous guts all night, hobbling through it for four quarters and both overtimes.


Date: March 1, 2017
Site: Westchester County Center

Highlights from News 12 Varsity:

Game recap: These teams played arguably the most exciting game of the regular season and nearly matched it in the semis. This game turned into a 3-point shootout as Albertus Magnus knocked down eight from behind-the-arc. Collin Crispino had 17 points and Cameron McGrath added 15. This was a one-possession game throughout the fourth quarter but TZ hung on late. Matt McGivney scored 17 points and Kieran Gibson had 16 while the duo combined for seven 3s. Kevin Lynch dominated inside.

The Hero: Kevin Lynch. The senior enjoyed a breakout final season and emerged as one of the area’s elite, doing some of his best work against Albertus Magnus all year. Lynch put up 25 points and 21 rebounds in this contest.

Why it’s Top 50: Two of the most accomplished programs of the decade put on a high-level showcase for four quarters between guys who’d gone head-to-head their entire lives. It all came down to a 22-win Tappan Zee squad finding a way late.

Lasting Image: This night as a whole at the County Center ranks among the best of them. After the Tappan Zee win there was this great expectation of a Byram Hills-TZ showdown again for the Gold Ball with some potential ‘Program of the Decade’ flavor. But it never materialized.


Date: February 25, 2014
Site: Westchester County Center

Video highlights from MSG Varsity:

Game recap: Dobbs Ferry took down rival and four-time state champion Irvington in grind-it-out fashion. The Eagles, who entered 9-10 overall but with a regular season win over Irvington, trailed by double-digits in the first half. Alyssa Chipelo (21 points) ignited the come back and Molly Althoz scored five of her 16 points in overtime. Laurilyn Gelardi scored 19 points, eight in overtime.

The Hero: Alyssa Chipelo. She had 14 points after halftime, highlighted by a jumper with a minute left and game-tying runner in the lane to force overtime.

Why it’s Top 50: The lone Section 1 championship Irvington did not win was due to the upset here by Dobbs Ferry in what was easily their sweetest victory of the decade. Dobbs Ferry had been dominated by Irvington for five years straight and finally seized the opportunity to unseat the state champs on the biggest stage.

Lasting Image: The expectation that night was that Dobbs Ferry had finally gotten over the hump to winning a title and that the Irvington dynasty was over. Neither turned out to be true. Dobbs was beaten in heart-breaking fashion by Woodlands in the final while Irvington has won every Gold Ball since.


Date: February 28, 2011
Site: Westchester County Center

Video highlights courtesy of MSG Varsity:

Game recap: Jackson Zuvic scored 10 of his 30 points over the final 3:58, highlighted by his short runner at the buzzer to lift the Blue Devils to a stunning victory. Corey Blair had 23 for the United, and. Kymkwan Hall had given Lincoln Hall a one-point lead with under a minute left on a jumper. Zuvic won it with a five-footer at the horn to land the Blue Devils in the final for the first time since 2003.

The Hero: Jackson Zuvic, Haldane. A buzzer-beater to win at the County Center. What could be better than that? Zuvic was a 1,000-point scorer, an all-state selection and played in college. But this was his crowning moment as a Blue Devil.

Why it’s Top 50: The buzzer beater, of course, sealed it. But the game itself was entertaining from the start. Lincoln Hall, which had split its two regular-season meetings with Haldane, missed a pair of free throws. This was a crazy game of runs back and forth. Haldane trailed by 6 at the half and it was 44-41 Lincoln Hall entering the fourth after Blair’s buzzer-beating 3. The nail-biting fourth came down to Haldane’s Jimmy Meekins (10 assists) dishing to Zuvic in the final seconds. His short-range shot hit the front of the rim and fell in as time expired.

Lasting Image: Haldane went on to lose in the Class C final handily to Tuckahoe while it felt like Lincoln Hall was never heard from again. Lincoln Hall, which won two sectional titles the previous decade, went 3-16 in 2012 and then eliminated the varsity program the following year.


Date: March 1, 2017
Site: Westchester County Center

Highlights courtesy of News 12 Varsity:

Game recap: The top-seeded and defending champion Bobcats stormed into the final. Lourdes hung around the entire way before making its late push to victory. The defense held Byram without a field goal over the final four minutes while Kevin Townes stuck a step-back 3-pointer to put the Warriors ahead with 2:09 to play. James Anozie extended the lead with under a minute to play and sealed the upset.

The Hero: James Anozie. The big man did whatever he wanted inside as the physical style of play favored the hefty post presence. Anozie wisely took advantage, piling up 27 points and 18 rebounds, including nine offensive.

Why it’s Top 50: Nobody really saw this coming. Byram Hills was the state’s No. 1 ranked team and winners of 17 straight but couldn’t control the interior. Lourdes showed that night how perfectly their pieces complemented Anozie on the perimeter. It also introduced us to a freshman names Aidan Hilderband, who transferred to Iona Prep before last season and recently scored his 1,000th career point.

Lasting Image: As much as any game in this Top 50 list, this one afterwards had as much shock from the losing team. Byram Hills had just reached the Class A state final four and missed a shot at the buzzer to a team that went on to roll in the championship. They returned the core of the roster and felt poised for an extended playoff run. Instead it ended at the hands of a Lourdes squad that simply refused to back down.

Check back soon for the next installment of Kevin Devaney Jr.’s Top 50 Championship Week Games of the Decade.

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