The old Rye High gym hasn’t had a home team this good take the floor in quite a while.
By Mitch Silver
The old Rye High gym hasn’t had a home team this good take the floor in quite a while. And it hasn’t seen an individual performance like Charlie Nagle’s since…well, maybe…since Cliff Clinton was coaching the Garnets back in the day.
Not only did Rye easily defeat Sleepy Hollow in the opener of the tournament named for their legendary coach — by a score of 56-45 — they took the title game by the same 11-point margin, beating Blind Brook, 65-54.
And yes, it was an all-around team effort. Mark Croughan had 12 points and eight rebounds against the Trojans, Brett Egan and George Kirby combined for 16 points and 13 boards, and Michael Carty, a revelation this season at point guard, had six assists, two steals, and no turnovers.
But the star of the game for the Garnets, as he’s been in all three games of the young season, was Charlie Nagle. The 5’11” two-guard scored 27 points in the title tilt (which, incidentally, lowered his per-game scoring average) and added five rebounds and three steals. And it might not even have been his best game of the tournament.
In the opener against the Headless Horsemen, Nagle sank at least one three-pointer in every quarter (six in all) while totaling 30 on the evening. His six — count ’em, six — steals effectively stopped the Sleepy attack before it could wake up. And that was on top of the 33 points he racked up on opening night against Sacred Heart.
Last year, Nagle was a sophomore who could shoot. This year, he’s a junior who can play. Asked what the difference is between this season and last, he said, “I just decided I was capable of doing more on the floor. So I spent the off-season working on every aspect of my game.”
Nagle’s improvement is nowhere more evident than on defense. Whether he’s up top in Rye’s 2-3 zone or playing man-to-man, the cat-quick floor leader is always looking for a chance to steal the spheroid. Defensive intensity is a quality Coach John Aguiar appreciates. “We maintained a double-digit lead against Blind Brook much of the game, but they cut it to seven late in the fourth quarter. Every time we pulled ahead, they hit a clutch three. But Charlie and the team never let up on defense, and in the end it paid off.”
Down Boston Post Road, things are also looking up for Rye Neck. In their first season under coach James Mooney, the Panthers, too, are undefeated. They beat Valhalla 49-45 in their road opener behind Kol Lewis and his 23 points. It helped that Aidan Heaton buried a three-pointer from the corner as the halftime buzzer sounded.
Down by three to start the second half, Rye Neck’s Conor Liguori hit back-to-back-to-back shots frombeyond the arc to shift the tide.
The Black Cats were again behind at halftime in game number two, a visit to Yonkers Montessori Academy. By tightening the screws on defense and allowing YMA only 11 points the rest of the way, Rye Neck overcame the four-point deficit to prevail, 46-30.
“The difference maker for us was John Paul,” Coach Mooney said. “He had eight points and completely dominated the game with his passing, rebounding, and shot blocking.”
The home opener December 10 saw another Yonkers squad, Martin Luther King High, sit in a 2-3 zone and dare the Panthers to make shots. For most of the game, they didn’t. “We got a lot of good looks but they wouldn’t fall,” the coach recalled. “I think we were nervous in front of our home crowd.”
As they have all season, Rye Neck needed to claw back from behind. “We did a great job of containing them,” Mooney said, “but a poor job rebounding. Most of their points came off of second- and third-chance opportunities.” It took Kol Lewis’s game-tying three to send it into OT. With less than 20 seconds to go, the home team got a stop and brought the ball up court.
“I didn’t call a timeout because I didn’t want MLK to set up. Kol attacked the rim and threw up a floater that missed badly. But John Luiso was able to tip it out towards the top of the key where Aidan Heaton was spotted up.
“Aidan simply gathered the ball and in rhythm released it with about a second remaining. From the moment it left his hands, I felt it was going in. Sure enough, as the ball was in the air, the buzzer sounded, and the ball fell through the net for the 43-40 win,” said the coach.
Monday saw the Panthers take their fourth straight game, a 46-39 win over Clark Academy of Dobbs Ferry. John Paul and Logan Spencer led the way with 11 points each. Afterwards, Coach Mooney took a moment to reflect.
“We’re doing way better than I expected us to. We’re playing how I felt we’d play in January. Although we’re still struggling to score, as we continue to play and, hopefully, win some more games, their confidence will grow and the baskets will come. Our team chemistry has been a big difference maker.”
Team chemistry is also the story up the road at Rye Country Day. First-year coach Steve Gage watched his team drop a 47-35 decision to Berkeley Carroll Tuesday afternoon at home after losing by 21 to Brunswick 72 hours earlier. The Wildcats were down by a point at the half, rallied to inch ahead in the middle of the third quarter, and all but collapsed in the final stanza.
“We need a chemistry infusion,” Coach Gage said afterwards. “We have get back on defense, stop giving up the back-door cuts…we have to play with heart, which we’re not doing right now.” Manny Chukwu led the team with 11 points, and fellow big man Chris Picard added eight.
The Wildcats will take on Kingswood-Oxford at the K-O Tournament this weekend. Rye welcomed Hendrick Hudson post-press time, and will play host to Somers Tuesday at 6 p.m. Meanwhile, Rye Neck plays at Dobbs Ferry Monday and Blind Brook on Wednesday, looking to stay unbeaten.