The highs were sky high: there were stirring comebacks and late-game heroics, crucial rebounds, and pressure-packed free throws.
By Mitch Silver
The highs were sky high: there were stirring comebacks and late-game heroics, crucial rebounds, and pressure-packed free throws. The lows were as low as you can get. Sadly, the lowest low for the Rye Country Day Wildcats was the season-ending 64-61 loss February 25 at the hands of St. Luke’s School in the Fairchester Athletic League opener.
This was supposed to be The Year. Despite losing all-time record scorer Tyler Fernandez to graduation, Coach Chris Wirth’s team boasted a big front line to go with an all-league backcourt of seniors Salim Green and Vincent Conn. It was Green, remember, who drove the lane for the layup that put the Wildcats up by one with 29 seconds to go in the New York State tournament final a year ago against Berkeley Carroll. And then he iced the game by making both free throws with five seconds left.
This year, the team passed up the defense of its NYSAIS crown in hopes of running the table in the FAA and going on to the New England tournament that’s now underway. Instead, the Warriors from New Canaan — the squad Rye Country Day beat seven days ago (by 62-59) to gain home-court advantage in the tournament opener — traveled to the Grandview Avenue gym and took it to the Wildcats.
Afterwards, Coach Wirth summed things up. “Unfortunately, St. Luke’s was better than us tonight. They outplayed us for most of the last ten minutes, and they definitely executed more efficiently on both ends of the floor in the final five.
“It was a really well-played game and extremely close right to the end. We sort of shot ourselves in the foot, making only 10 of 21 from the foul line. Their guys hit 22 for 27, which was a factor.
“We cut it to one with under 30 seconds to go, but came up just a couple of plays short. My guys gave it their all, but we ran out of gas at the end. I felt terrible for my three seniors, Salim, Vincent, and Jeremiah Washington. We had four or five tough games that really could have changed our season if we’d won — this last one clearly being one of them.”
Big men Chris Picard and Manny Chukwu will return for more banging under the boards next winter, but the Wildcats — blessed with Fernandez, Green, and Conn running the show these past few years — will have to find an all-new starting backcourt for 2015-16. What do the Chinese say? “May you live in interesting times.”