Rye High Outduels Rye Country Day in Cliff Clifton Classic and Downs Clarkstown in Tourney Championship
Varsity basketball season in Rye opened with high hoops December 6 when Rye High hosted Rye Country Day School Garnets in the first round of the Lions Club-sponsored Cliff Clifton Classic. The packed gym was redolent with rivalry, but it was sometimes confusing as chants of “Let’s go, Rye” came from both sides of the floor.
Separated by only a mile-and-a-half of Boston Post Road, the players, students, and local basketball fans had marked this game on the calendar as a special event. Garnets Coach John Aguilar noted, “This is the first time the two schools have played each other in my eight years as Varsity coach. The environment was electric, and I applaud the fans who cheered loudly, energetically, and respectfully.”
After 32 minutes of exciting basketball, the Garnets, led by senior All State guard Quinn Kelly who finished with 23 points and seven assists, came out on top 77-61. Missing the services of senior All Conference guard Matthew Tepedino due to injury, three other seniors stepped up for Rye High: point guard Rafael Velasquez shined with 14 points on four of six shooting, six rebounds, and six assists, while guard Zack Rosenstadt and head-tie-wearing center James Mackle added 14 and 13 points, respectively.
The Wildcats were led by junior guard Ben Pearce, who posted 23 points with five triples, while senior forward Shane Regan grinded inside with 20 points and six rebounds.
The Garnets outhustled the Wildcats on steals, offensive rebounds, and points off turnovers. They also played impressive team ball, assisting on 17 of their 26 baskets. After the game, Coach Aguilar said: “We played well, showing a lot of grit and energy in the second half. We struggled with our rotations on defense, which led to Rye Country Day’s two best players going off early. However, as the game went on, our press wore them down, and we were able to take advantage in the fourth quarter.”
In the Championship matchup against Clarkstown South, at halftime the Garnets were up 29-23 at halftime. But Rye broke free late in the third quarter and did not look back. With two minutes left in the third period, James Mackle finished a Kelly fast break pass with a two-handed dunk to go up 41-31. Velasquez then hit back-to-back threes to end the third quarter with Rye pushing the lead up to 16 points. The Garnets tightened their defense further in the fourth, limiting the South Vikings to only six points. Rye played exceptional team offense: assisting on 16 of their 28 baskets. They again outhustled their opponents with margins of +19 on rebounds and +7 on steals.
Velasquez, the new starting Garnet point guard, led the team with 15 points and filled the stat line with six rebounds, five assists, and five steals. Kelly logged 13 points and five assists, while Mackle and sophomore guard Daniel Roberts each added eight. Senior CJ Nemsick and junior Alex Vollbrecht commanded the boards with ten and eight rebounds, respectively.
Coach Aguilar’s post-game message was simple: “Winning our home tournament is always one of our major goals for the year.” The Garnets got their win and are off to a strong 3-0 start for the season.
- Rye Record staff