Rye Neck coach Shawn Lincoln knew his young Panthers team might find it tough in the early going. But this tough?
By Mitch Silver
Rye Neck coach Shawn Lincoln knew his young Panthers team might find it tough in the early going. But this tough? The locals fell behind to Pleasantville in the first quarter of their opening game December 1, as the visitors (also the Panthers) drained five baskets from beyond the arc on their way to scoring 23 points. It wouldn’t have been so bad had the home team scored any of their own. But they didn’t. Nada. Zilch. Zip. Pleasantville 23, Rye Neck 0 at the end of that awful first period.
“We came out…what’s the word…nervous,” the coach said afterwards. “Then they hit their shots, we didn’t make ours, and the pressure just built and built.”
This year, Rye Neck Boys’ basketball is pretty much three-year varsity player Jake Sevean and everyone else. More than half the players on the roster are new to the team. “Small schools like ours are apt to get these highs and lows; we graduated almost everybody,” Coach Lincoln observed. Among the graduates was leading scorer and all-everything Matt Franks who, along with classmates named Cascione, Pennell, Calvini, Aquino, Spedafino, and Garcia, won league titles in football and baseball along with basketball.
But that was then and this is now. Among other things, every Pleasantville player who started was taller than every Rye Neck player they faced. Even so, no one expected the avalanche, with the visitors constantly cutting under the basket for easy scores when they weren’t hitting from outside.
Junior Zach Tenner scored the Panthers’ first points when he nailed a long-range jumper with 5:23 left in the second period. That made it 28-3. The half would close with the score 41-8.
“In the locker room I told everyone to take a few deep breaths. We were going to play a series of four-minute games in the second half,” the coach said. “Our goal was simply to win each of those mini games.”
Amazingly, that’s just what they did. With Sevean and junior Noah Caplan each scoring nine points for the game from the backcourt, Rye Neck won the third quarter 16-14 and the fourth by a point, 7-6. Senior Jack Webber and juniors Dan Villegas and John Luiso made it onto the score sheet for a final score of 61-31, Pleasantville.
After the game, Lincoln singled out junior Lukas Corona. “This is his second year on the team. He really worked hard out there.” He had more hard work coming up when Rye Neck traveled to play Ardsley post-press time.