In Late Surge, Panthers Overcome Tuckahoe
By Mitch Silver
For most of the first three quarters of their home game February 7, Rye Neck looked like a beaten basketball team. They were missing shots, both from the floor and seven of 11 from the free-throw line. And they were unable to stop the Tigers’ shooting guard, Chase Garcia. He scored all 12 of his team’s first-quarter points on his way to a game-high 26.
Still, when the final period started, the Panthers were only down by six, 32-26. Their own high scorer, junior RJ Hutt, had scored all six of their points in the third quarter, and he kept up the pace in the fourth, hitting three more baskets on an assortment of banked shots off the boards.
The inspiration behind the win might have been provided by senior forward James Paul. After missing six free throws in a row, he made his only two tries with five minutes left in the game. Afterwards, Head Coach Mike Denham cited Paul’s makes as one of the keys to victory. “I told him that knocking down those shots after you’ve missed all your others and when the pressure is on is no easy feat,” the coach said. “I think it gave the whole team a lift.”
The other thing that gave the Rye Neck team a fourth-quarter lift was the three-point shooting of starting guards Ryan Cantu and Evan Janowitz. After missing all their attempts beyond the arc up to the final stanza, each hit a three. Cantu’s nosed his team ahead 37-36 and Janowitz restored that razor-thin lead to 40-39 after Anthony Hauser hit a three of his own for Tuckahoe. Cantu hit six free throws in a row to close things out, 48-41.
In all, the Panthers outscored the Tigers 22-9 in the closing quarter, with Hutt notching 16 for the game and Cantu 15. The win over their Class C opponents pushed Rye Neck’s record to 15-3 for the season. They close out the regular campaign hosting The Leffell School, whose record is 7-11, post-press time before traveling to Yonkers Montessori February 11.