By Mitch Silver
When first-year Head Coach Mike Denman sent his team out on the floor January 21, to face visiting Lincoln High School, he knew the odds were in Rye Neck’s favor. For one thing, his squad entered the game with a 9-2 record, as opposed to the visitors whose record was 1-8. For another, Coach Denman had most recently been the head coach of Yonkers High, so he knew a lot about Lincoln, one of that city’s other high schools.
The first quarter was all Rye Neck. Senior James Paul won the opening tap, and the Panthers dictated action the rest of the way. Denman’s big men — Paul, sophomore Josef Zyngier, and junior RJ Hutt — scored 16 of the team’s 19 first-quarter points, beating the Lancers’ full-court press with over-the-top passes on the fast-break time and again. Hutt, the team’s season-long high scorer, personally accounted for a dozen points, utilizing his height and quicker first step to get to the rim for easy baskets.
Meanwhile, the Panthers played suffocating defense in a tight-knit zone that held Lincoln to just four points after eight minutes.
The Lancers kept pressing in the second period and Rye Neck kept adding to its lead, going up 27-4 after four minutes of play. The halftime buzzer saw the Panthers lead by 31-8, though they missed six free throws in the second quarter.
The second half was more of the same. Despite Coach Denman playing his entire bench and Lincoln hitting three baskets from beyond the arc, they couldn’t chip into the Panthers’ lead, which stood at 58-25 after three. Paul hit eight more points and sophomore guard Evan Janowitz got seven in the quarter.
The final period was simply the RJ Hutt show, with the lanky forward duplicating his first-quarter total of 12, all on drives. The win pushed the Hornidge Road boys’ record to 10-2, which they bettered the following morning when they defeated Gorton, another Yonkers high school, by 56-48.
Coach Denman said, “Our record is strong right now. If we keep playing the way I think we can, we could be contesting the league title a couple of weeks from now.”