By Mitch Silver
Pity the poor seeding committee. After Rye High beat the three-time defending league champs Byram Hills in overtime, 60-57, at the end of the regular season, the Section 1 savants made the 17-3 Garnets the top seed in Class A. Byram dropped all the way to 5th, behind Panas, Saunders, and Hen Hud. By the time the title game came around, the sixth–seeded team would be playing the eighth. So much for crystal balls.
In Rye’s tournament opener February 16, the Garnets hosted 9-12 Pearl River, and barely escaped with a 62-56 win. All that did was set up another game against a tough Ardsley squad, those No. 8 guys. Head Coach John Aguilar knew it would be tough.
“We split our league games with them. They beat us a few weeks ago, one of our three defeats on the season. We knew the game was going to be a challenge.”
Actually, it was more of a slog. While both teams played suffocating defense, the Garnets’ sub-par shooting — a problem that persisted all game — didn’t help their cause. The Panthers left the Draddy Gym floor up by two, 17-15, at the half.
The team of Samberg, Thompson, the Tepedinos et al. managed to pull ahead briefly in the third quarter, but they couldn’t nail the crucial buckets.
In Coach Aguilar’s appraisal, “Ardsley was more physical than we were. They sat in a zone and dared us to shoot from outside. We got many open looks, but unfortunately couldn’t convert, shooting 6 for 30 from three-point range.”
That impenetrable zone, which kept Rye’s guards from driving to the basket, also denied them trips to the free throw line. In fact, the locals didn’t convert a single foul shot the entire game, while the Panthers went 18 for 26.
When Ardsley’s Zeke Blauner gave his team the lead for good on a four-point play late in the third quarter, Rye was unable to respond. Blauner and Julian McGarvey added three-pointers to end the quarter and seal the 53-42 win.
Afterwards, Coach Aguilar chose to look on the bright side. “It was not the ending we were hoping for, but that doesn’t take away what we were able to accomplish this season. After graduating eight seniors and four starters a year ago, a 17-3 record and a league title that earned us a number one seed are things that the boys should be proud of and will remember for a lifetime. The fact that this team gave me my 100th victory as a head coach just adds to the fact that this is a group of young men I’ll never forget.”
Four days later, Ardsley would beat Hendrick Hudson, 48-43, and earn the right to play No. 6 Tappan Zee for the Class A title. With 3.9 seconds left in the game and the Panthers down by two, McGarvey — quarterback of the Panthers’ football team — intercepted a long inbound pass, took one dribble to his right, and unleashed an overhand shot from over 70 feet. His last-second Hail Mary dropped at the buzzer to hand Ardsley a 52-51 victory and The Heave was the number one play on ESPN Sports Center’s Top-10.
Don’t think the seeding committee saw that one coming, either.
Senior A. J. Thompson pulls down a crucial rebound.