Matthew Tepedino advances the ball over mid-court while being guarded by Harrison’s Reece Mullahy.
RHS Boys’ Basketball
Tepedino Leads Garnets to Win Over Huskies in Holiday Tourney
BY LEIF SKODNICK
Matthew Tepedino drove the lane from the left side, dribbling the ball with his right hand, a Harrison defender blocking his path to the basket.
As he went for the layup, the Huskies’ defender closed the opening and Tepedino crashed to the parquet, reaching for his left leg, clad in a knee brace to reinforce the joint after a football injury that kept him out of the Garnets’ first three games of the season.
“The very little hair I have on top of my head, I lost a few more strands,” Rye head coach John Aguilar said of the play that left his two-year captain on the floor.
Tepedino shook off the hard foul, which had merely caused a leg cramp, and paced the Garnets with 15 points, shooting 6-for-8 from the field with two 3-pointers as Rye beat Harrison 60-48 in the first game of the Harrison Holiday Tournament on December 12.
Returning from an injury to his left knee suffered in Rye’s 49-13 win against Auburn in the Class A football playoffs on November 15, Tepedino easily stepped back into the Rye lineup. He said the knee didn’t bother him at all against Harrison.
“I think I could have played in our home tournament, but I played it a bit conservative, took another few days, and it feels good now,” Tepedino said.
His coach was glad he stayed out of the lineup last week.
“He was chomping at the bit to get in last week, but his health is the most important thing,” Aguilar said. “He practiced in full this week, he looked good, and it gave everyone an emotional lift, especially at the beginning.”
Fellow Rye senior Quinn Kelly, who chipped in 13 points, going 5-for-7 at the line with four field goals, said it was great to get Tepedino back on the floor.
“He’s a great scorer, defender, rebounder, passer,” Kelly said. “He’s a big part of our team and a key part of us winning… Other guys had to step up in his place, but he came back and fit in perfectly, like we knew he would.”
The Garnets were aggressive early, holding Harrison to just four points in the first quarter and taking a 31-14 lead into the locker room at halftime.
After the break, Harrison clamped down, holding Rye to four field goals in the third quarter while pressing the Garnets, forcing them to take some contested shots that didn’t find the net.
“I do think we shot exceptionally poorly tonight, and we had a lot of looks in the paint that we missed,” said Aguilar. “They’re kids, and it was deflating for us, but that’s something we need to work on, overcoming those mental hurdles. We missed a lot that we normally make, and that caused us to lose focus on the defensive end.”
That loss of focus enabled the Huskies to get their offense going late, adding 22 fourth-quarter points, but they never drew close.
“They always play us tough here, and [Harrison coach] Gary Chiarella does a great job,” Aguilar said. “We knew it was going to be a battle with their home fans here.”
In addition to Tepedino’s 15 points, Rye went 11-for-16 at the line and shot 22-of-39 from the field with five 3-pointers.
“At halftime, we knew they were going to be fired up. It’s their tournament with their home crowd,” Tepedino said. “We just stayed solid on defense, kept the ball moving on offense, and tried to get some solid looks.