Championship Week: Top 50 Games of the 2010s – Nos. 20-11

If the last 10 games in my Top 50 of the 2010s had the defining theme of atmosphere, the 10 games below have a thread of their own, as well: Emotion.

Many of the games in this installment include some of the most jubilant celebrations and also the most tearful defeats. You could also make a case for any one of these games below to be in the Top 10.

Here’s the schedule of release for the Top 50:
Nos. 50-41 – READ HERE
Nos. 40-31 – READ HERE
Nos. 30-21. – READ HERE
March 4: Nos. 20-11
March 7: Nos. 10-1



Date: March 1, 2019
Site: Pace University

Watch the game in its entirety here on LocalLive

Video highlights courtesy LocalLive:

Game recap: All Blind Brook tried to do for three quarters was slow down the pace and turn this game into a slogfest with their defense. The Trojans did that but was still down by seven in the second half before a fourth-quarter run. Lester McCarthy drilled a 3-pointer for Dobbs with 39 seconds to go, and followed with a layup. But Ryan Aiello stormed down the floor for Blind Brook and hit a tying 3-pointer with 12.1 seconds to go. Dobbs Ferry’s shot at the buzzer missed but they seized control in OT. Demani Fraser hit a rare 3 for Dobbs off the glass to break the game open.

The Hero: Lester McCarthy led with 15 points. But Dimaune Meredith added nine points and 12 rebounds and Zach Holzman added eight points and 11 boards. This was a balanced effort for the Eagles, who showed great resolve after losing the lead in the fourth quarter.

Why it’s Top 50: Dobbs Ferry had not won a Section 1 title in 52 years before this night. Think about that. There have been countless football and baseball championships in that run but never a Gold Ball until this night. Blind Brook was a tear through the Class B tournament, a marvelous run for a team that lost five starters from a sectional finalist squad. The Aiello shot was brought an incredible energy to the building given the way he fired it up on the run.

Lasting image: Dobbs Ferry coach Scott Patrillo would have had a shelve of Gold Balls in the decade had it not been for three defeats to private schools in Section 1 title games. He never publicly lamented that fact. So, it made winning this championship that much sweeter for the longtime Eagles coach, who had been building for this title run with this group for three years.


Date: February 28, 2015
Site: Westchester County Center

Video highlights courtesy of MSG Varsity:

Game recap: At no point in this game did you not believe it would come down to the final possession. Ardsley jumped out to a 29-26 halftime lead behind the hot hand of senior Isabella DePasquale, who scored all 11 of her points before the break. Lindsay Halpin came out firing in the third, knocking down three 3-pointers to give the Irvington a two-point lead entering the fourth. The game remained within one possession until a Havana Hall 3 with 3:50 left put Irvington ahead by six. Casey Foley carried the Panthers down the stretch. Down by two in the final seconds, Foley’s 3-pointer missed as Irvington snared the rebounds and hung on to win the title.

The Hero: Lindsay Halpin. This was the first of several show-stopping performances by Halpin at the County Center, who may go down as the most underrated star of the decade in girls basketball. Halpin scored 17 points and earned MVP honors in the win.

Why it’s Top 50: Irvington won its fifth Gold Ball in six years and, quite honestly, this might have been the most rewarding of the entire decade. The Bulldogs’ run of four straight titles ended the previous season and there was an expectation that Ardsley had played well enough to surpass them as the championship favorites entering this game. Irvington began a new streak on this night as Catherine Hoy scored 14 points and Roxy Trama shined defensively.

Lasting image: I distinctly remember going up to legendary Irvington coach Gina Maher before this game to say hello and wish her luck. She was a wreck. It hit me: After all the games she had coached in her career to this point — and she had just won an unprecedented four straight state titles — and she was as nervous at that moment as ever before. She kept repeating “I just want this for these girls so badly.” Please, no matter what level of success you achieve in your career as coach, if you don’t have the pregame jitters that Maher has even today, then you’re not in the right line of work.


Date: March 1, 2014
Site: Westchester County Center

Video highlights courtesy MSG Varsity:

Game recap: The young and promising Woodlands group arrived a year early and upset a veteran, 18-win Putnam Valley squad. This game had some ridiculous runs in the second. Zach Coleman keyed a 15-0 Put Valley run to put the Tigers by 13 with over 5 minutes left in the third. Woodlands answered with 22 straight points, ignited by the Brandon Johnson’s 3-point barrage. Coleman led Put Valley back within two in the final minutes before Gambari sealed it at the foul line. Coleman led the Tigers with 19 points and Jelani Bell-Isaac added 18 and 16 rebounds.

The Hero: Brandon Johnson. While Gambari was the MVP thanks to 18 points and 12 rebounds, Johnson’s clutch outside shooter put the Falcons in position to pull off the upset. Johnson made four 3s and scored 13 of his 16 points in the second half.

Why it’s Top 50: Woodlands was that team that nobody wanted to face in the Class B playoffs in 2014. The sixth-seeded Falcons knocked off No. 3 Palisade Prep before edging Rye Neck in the semis. The Falcons were supposed to be run out of the County Center in the third quarter when Put Valley took its commanding 13-point lead. But Woodlands, with a nucleus of underclassmen, never blinked. The energy and emotion of this game was heightened by the fact Putnam Valley was appearing in its first ever sectional final and that Woodlands’ girls squad was also vying for a Gold Ball.

Lasting image: The poise of Woodlands was remarkable. Brandon Johnson connecting on three 3-pointers in the third quarter, and the turnovers forced by Pierre Lys, set the table for a two straight runs to the state final four in Glens Falls. This was a really fun group to follow in those seasons.


Date: March 3, 2018
Site: Pace University

Video highlights courtesy of KDJ Media:

Game recap: The Legend of Aubrey Griffin was already being spread but this game put her on the biggest stage. And Griffin really delivered. The junior posted 46 points and nine rebounds in a show-stopping effort, outdueling Lourdes star Maddy Siegrist. The Villanova-bound star had 27 points, 15 rebounds and four assists, helping the Warriors stake a 30-21 halftime lead. The Pride roared out in the third, reclaiming the lead. The game was tied at 55-55 with 6:11 to go before Ossining scored 12 straight to bust it open. Kailah Harris had 17 and 11 in the win.

The Hero. Griffin. After missing her junior season with torn ACL, she came back with a vengeance. Ossining missed all eight of its 3-point attempts in the first half but the game really changed when Griffin converted a four-point play in the opening minute of the third. She scored 20 points in the third quarter alone to put Ossining up 53-49 entering the fourth.

Why it’s Top 50: Don’t be fooled by the score; this hardly felt like a double-digit game until the late in the fourth quarter. It was the eighth championship in a row for Ossining and was the game that probably featured the most high-level talent on both sides. Ava Learn contributed 16 points and 11 rebounds for Lourdes and Rebecca Townes scored 14.

Lasting image: I had the privilege of covering Saniya Chong for four years at Ossining. While I figured at some point I would see another player in our area with that level of talent, I never expected to see someone as clutch and with the same ability to completely own a game. Then came this game and Griffin, who put on a Saniya-like show. Griffin did this repeatedly over her junior and senior seasons and is now thriving as a freshman at UConn.


Date: March 1, 2019
Site: Pace University

Watch the full game here on LocalLive.tv by clicking here

Game recap: Of the three championship game matchups in a row between these power programs, this was easily the most dramatic. The game was tied in the middle of the the third quarter before Irvington staked a 12-point lead. The Bears stormed back to pull within two in the final minute. Katie LeBuhn’s free throw with 12 seconds left extended the lead and Briarcliff had two good looks from behind-the-arc in the final seconds but couldn’t connect on either. Maddie Plank, who scored 39 in the 2018 final loss to Irvington, had 18 and seven rebounds in the loss. Abby Conklin scored 11 and grabbed rebounds for Irvington.

The Hero: Grace Thybulle. This game was part of a stellar postseason for the sophomore power forward. She took home MVP honors with 20 points and 10 rebounds in the win, helping Irvington win its fifth straight Section 1 title. The Bulldogs went on to win the state and Federation crowns.

Why it’s Top 50: For the third year in a row, Irvington and Briarcliff met in the championship. And once again, after Briarcliff won the regular season matchup, the Bulldogs got revenge in the final. The quality of play from the opening tip was exceptional in a matchup of two teams that entered with a combined 42 wins, and would have likely been favorites to win Class A and be the top contender to Ossining in AA. That’s how talented these teams were and the battles they had in three straight finals won’t soon be forgotten.

Lasting image: The entire Pace University crowd went completely silent when Kacey Hamlin’s 3-point attempt as time expired left her fingertips. You were instantly hit with the reality that neither of these teams deserved to have their seasons end. And that the winner would not only win the rest of the way — no game would be as close as this one. That proved to be true.


Date: March 4, 2012
Site: Westchester County Center

Video highlights courtesy of MSG Varsity:

Game recap: There were some great games in the decade. But this game felt more like a street fight. Byram Hills and Tappan Zee, the previous two Section 1 champs, engaged a physical, defensive struggle. The reigning champion Bobcats, playing without star guard Jeff Lynch (foot injury), trailed most of the way before tying the game at 38-38 early in the fourth on a 3-pointer by Andrew Maloney (14 points). Billy O’Shea and Brian McLaughlin put the Dutchmen back up by five but again Byram had an answer. Ryan Golden’s free throws and a Charlie Murphy basket tied the game at 46-46 with under a minute to go. O’Shea put the Dutchmen ahead on free throws and the Dutchmen got a late stop to hold on before a roaring crowd at the County Center.

The Hero: Billy O’Shea. The evolution of O’Shea as a consistent scorer in the second half of the season proved to be what put Tappan Zee over the top in the postseason. O’Shea dropped 26 points, 18 in the first half, in this game before taking home MVP honors with another strong effort against Poughkeepsie in the final.

Why it’s Top 50: These were the two defining programs of the decade in Class A basketball, so any meeting in the final four deserves acclaim (they’ll have another down this list). What made this game so good was that every basket was a struggle. These two programs were at their peak in how they defended and simply outworked the competition. When they went head to head, saw almost no empty seats in the arena, you sat back and marveled watching the games played the way it is supposed to be.

Lasting image: One thing I won’t soon forget: When these teams came out for the opening tip, Tappan Zee reached centercourt first. All five starters stood and watched Byram Hills break the huddle and walk towards them with their hands reached out. Nobody on Tappan Zee moved a muscle. No pregame handshakes, no smiles, just cold stares. The tone for the game was set. Years later, one of the starters in the game told me “We didn’t like them. And they didn’t like us.”


Date: March 5, 2017
Site: Westchester County Center

Video highlights courtesy of News 12 Varsity:

Game recap: The Tuskers claimed their first championship in program history with one of the most heart-pounding final minutes of twists and turns you’ll see. Second seed Somers was challenged defensively all evening by Eastchester’s quick, long guards. The Eagles led from the start before then-freshman Dani DiCintio drained a consecutive 3-pointers to give Somers the lead early in the fourth quarter. Eastchester, which lost star junior Fiona Teahan to injury for three minutes in the fourth, was down five but had the ball up 1 with 25 seconds to go. Livy Rosenzweig came up with a steal for the Tuskers and scored to give Somers the lead. Eastchester’s final possession ended without a shot as first-year Tuskers coach Marc Hattem celebrated the title.

The Hero: Hannah Angelini earned MVP honors after a terrific all-around effort in the tournament. DiCintio’s shots and the fact she scored 13-second half points was the launching point of a terrific career for the 1,000-point scorer.

Why it’s Top 50: The last game on what might have been the best individual day at the County Center in the last 20 years. It was one of the games where whatever you expected would happen, the opposite did. Eastchester and Somers were two programs with very little recent basketball success and the fans from the two communities poured in to create one of the great girls basketball atmospheres of the decade.

Lasting image: The emotion on the Somers bench after the final buzzer was surreal. The Tuskers had a tumultuous offseason with Kristi Dini leaving as head coach and Hattem coming in late. But the Tuskers bonded together and made history. The tears and celebration were something to behold.


Dates: February 26-March 2, 2010
Site: Westchester County Center

Game recaps: This was such an incredible final four but unfortunately very little text and almost no video exists in my archives or is anywhere online. The three games had their own eye-popping nuggets.

Woodlands 57, Irvington 51. To this day I’ve never seen anything like this game. Irvington opened the game by taking a 20-0 lead. Yes, 20 to NOTHING. And lost. Woodlands trailed 25-6 after the first but used a 16-0 to claw back. The Hero: DaVonne Henry. The transfer from Harlem scored 18 points and helped the Falcons overcome a nervous start. He punctuated the win with a thunderous two-handed dunk in the fourth quarter.

Pleasantville 42, Nanuet 41. The Panthers entered the postseason with an eye on returning to the section final after a gut-wrenching loss to Lincoln Hall in 2009 (that was the game where Lincoln Hall fans jumped off the upper deck at the County Center to celebrate on the court). Nanuet had other intentions. John Brezovsky had a big first half as the Golden Knights took a 24-20 lead into the break. Pleasantville dominated the third quarter to hold a 34-30 lead entering the fourth. The game was tied with 1:40 left when Jack Bramswig converted a steal into a layup for Pleasantville. Brezovksy answered by banking in a 3 with 25 seconds to play, giving Nanuet the lead. Bramswig, though, was fouled on a put-back attempt for the Panthers with 5.8 seconds to go. He hit both to put Pleasantville back in front. Brezovsky (21 points) had a long 3-poiner at the buzzer hit back iron and bounce off as Pleasantville survived. The Hero: Bramswig scored 18 of his 20 points in the second half, highlighted by the go-ahead free throws.

Woodlands 51, Pleasantville 50. The Panthers suffered yet another agonizing defeat in the final seconds of a championship game. This time, they were locked in a game that saw eight lead changes in the fourth quarter alone. Pleasantville held a two-point lead with over a minute left when Nate Knight made a game-tying layup. Following a Panthers turnover, Woodlands missed on a pair of shots in the lane in the final 10 seconds before Knight was fouled with 1.3 seconds left. He made the first to give Woodlands the lead but missed the second. Yet Knights raced in and grabbed the rebound and time expired to end it. Jack Bramswig posted 25 points and 21 in the losse. The Hero: Davonne Henry was MVP after sccoring 19 points.

Why they’re Top 50: As a trifecta, this was maybe the best final four of the decade in any class. There was so much pressure on Pleasantville, with four three-year starters; Woodlands had a cloud of controversy with a pair of transfers in Malik Atkins and Davonne Henry. Nanuet had one of the conferences most prolific players in Brezovsky while Irvington boasted a dynamic duo in Purcelle and Nedwick.

Lasting image: For whatever reason, it felt like the entire arena was rooting for Pleasanville. It seemed like Woodlands fed off the energy as a villainous No. 1 seed with the negative transfers vibe. The game was a whirlwind until the final seconds and Woodlands coach Bob Murphy was as animated that night as he was during any game during his three Gold Ball career with the Falcons. The emotional final sequence saw Murphy accidentally slam his hand down on the scorers’ table and send his water bottle flying into the air during the celebration.


Date: March 5, 2017
Site: Westchester County Center

Video highlights courtesy of News 12 Varsity:

Watch the full game courtesy of News 12 Varsity:

Game recap: Tappan Zee was in a major funk from the start in this game, mostly due in large to fouls. The Dutchmen trailed by as many as 16 in the second quarter and was lucky to only go into the half down 10. Ryan Holder kept TZ in it with 10 of his 16 before halftime. Kevin Lynch and Matt McGivney hit key 3-pointers to ignite a Dutchmen rally in the third. TZ was down 40-37 with just over a minute left. Lynch’s free throws made it a one-point game and TZ had the ball in the final seconds. But Kevin Townes’ steal and dunk in the final seconds sealed it.

The Hero: James Anozie. Once again, the senior big man owned the interior. Anozie posted 14 points and 10 rebounds and did a solid job defensively when TZ standout center Kevin Lynch was on the floor and not dealing with fouls.

Why it’s Top 50: Unfortunately, the controversy of this game is what many remember the most. Lynch found himself in severe foul trouble in the first half, including what looked like a questionable technical foul. Anozie too was also in foul trouble at point. There was also a clear 3-pointer by. Ryan Holder for TZ that was ruled a 2 in the fourth quarter. Regardless, this game was so emotionally-charged from the start and it remained that way through the final buzzer.

Lasting image: Kevin Townes streaking down the court and throwing down a dunk as time expired. It became a reality that Lourdes had actually pulled off an unthinkable pair of upsets, beating Byram Hills and TZ to capture the Section 1 Class A crown. Lourdes knocked off the top two seeds to do so and shock the section, a playoff run that took them all the way to the state final in Binghamton.


Date: February 28, 2016
Site: Westchester County Center

Video highlights courtesy of MSG Varsity:

Game recap: Another hold-your-breath finish saw Tappan Zee suffer a heartbreaking defeat at the hands of an underdog Byram squad. The Bobcats led 18-17 following a slugfest of a first half after Kevin Lynch (16 points, seven rebounds) beat the buzzer with a jumper. Byram led by a point early in the third before Tappan Zee reclaimed the lead. It was a one-possession game over the final 12 minutes. Skylar Sinon fed Matt Groll for the go-ahead basket with 1:08 left for Byram. Matt Milone’s steal gave the Bobcats and they somehow managed to keep possession for 50 seconds without adding to their lead. After a missed free throw, Robbie McWilliams raced to midcourt and fired off a halfcourt shot to win it at the buzzer but it missed.

The Hero: Skylar Sinon. There were plenty of great defensive plays made by Milone and Lou Filippelli. But Sinon earned MVP honors as a sophomore following his 13 points, four rebounds and four assists.

Why it’s Top 50: Like their meeting in the 2012 playoffs, there’s a certain beauty in the way these teams get after it in their low-scoring head-to-head meetings. It comes down to loose balls and box outs and hustle plays. Tappan Zee and Byram Hills made a living off that in the decade and, in the deepest and most competitive class in Section 1, separated themselves from the pack.

Lasting image: Every game in the Top 50 features jubilation and devastation. But this game — outside of “The Shot” in 2013 and the “McGarvey Miracle” in 2018 — featured perhaps the height of those two emotions. This was supposed to be TZ’s year to return as the section champs after a dominant 21-win season, including a regular season win at Byram. The Bobcats, meanwhile, had such a young nucleus that came of age in the playoffs and captured an unexpected Gold Ball.

Check back soon for KDJ’s Top 10 games of the 2010s from Championship Week this weekend. Share your favorite moments on Twitter at @KDJmedia1

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