By Mitch Silver
How’s this for a strange game? Rye Country Day jumped out to an 8-0 lead in the first 75 seconds of their home game against Masters School last Friday. Masters then scored the next 16, a run that only ended when Wildcat Shane Regan made a tough left-handed shot in the lane with nine minutes left in the half.
Even worse from Head Coach Steve Gage’s perspective, his team was whistled for ten fouls by then, forcing him to shuffle players in and out for the rest of the game.
Man for man, Masters was bigger and more muscled at every position on the floor. That strength was a big reason why the Grandview Avenue boys lost at least four offensive rebounds to the Panthers, rebounds they had in their hands that went the other way for fast-break scores.
The Panther-Wildcat catfight appeared to be all over at the half, with the hot-shooting visitors leading 46-34. But Coach Gage must have pushed the right buttons in the locker room, because his team came out playing with renewed vigor. Three minutes into the second half, Rye Country Day had cut the deficit in half to 54-48. Center Sam Berger, Billy O’Meara, and Jason Schnall all hit three-pointers, with Berger scoring ten of his game-high 15 points by the 8-minute mark.
In the end it was the Wildcats’ speedy guards, Ben Pearce and Cole Price, who kept getting to the line to keep Gage’s men in the contest. Berger would close the gap to 60-56 before the faster, tougher team from Masters — a team that stayed in its full-court press the whole game — pulled away to win by a deceptively large 14-point margin.
The Wildcats wound up with four players — Berger, Price, Allan Houston, and O’Meara — in double figures.
Afterwards, Coach Gage put his finger on the problem. “In the first half, we were unorganized. Once we broke their press, we didn’t run anything. I liked the way Cole Price and the others competed; we just didn’t make the plays Masters did. They played really hard, ran the floor… they played great.”
Rye Country Day met King School post-press time. The team travels to Greens Farms January 19 to try to atone for the 73-65 loss they suffered January 6.
Ben Pearce (3), Allan Houston (20), and Cullen Coleman (30, rear) fight for the rebound.
Allan Houston cans a jumper as Billy O’Meara (2) and Jason Schnall look on.