Ben Pearce scored 23 to lead the Wildcats.
Rye Country Day Boys’ Basketball
Wildcats’ Early Lead Not Enough Against Portledge
BY LEIF SKODNICK
It was just under two minutes into the fourth quarter when Portledge School’s Zaire Baines launched an arcing three-pointer that nearly scraped the ceiling before swishing through the net, the fifth of six he’d make in the game.
And it was arguably the most important, as it gave Portledge a 65-63 lead over Rye Country Day – their first lead of the game on their way to an 82-76 win in a non-league contest on February 6.
Off the opening tip, the Wildcats controlled play as Shane Regan tipped it to Ben Pearce in the front court, who raced ahead and dropped in a right-handed layup for the game’s first bucket. Pearce would score 12 of his 35 points in the first quarter, as the Wildcats carried a 26-9 lead into the game’s second stanza on the strength of six three-pointers.
But slowly, Portledge’s larger, more aggressive squad began to take control.
“We came out really strong and made a lot of shots early,” said Rye Country Day head coach Brendan Barile. “We had a game plan and we were executing it very well. Portledge is a good team with good players, and eventually they started making plays.”
After being held off the scoresheet in the first quarter, Portledge’s Baines, who earned All-State honors last year, scored eight points in the second quarter and 10 in the third before exploding for 17 in the final frame as Portledge changed defensive schemes and declawed the Wildcats offense.
“They just honestly couldn’t guard us man-to-man,” said Regan, who went 11-for-11 at the free throw line on his way to scoring 23 points. “In the second half, they went to a 2-3 (zone defense) and that’s when we started to struggle.”
According to Pearce, who had three three-pointers from the wing in the first half, “Portledge pressed out a little bit more and from the wing, it got a little bit tougher. As you start hitting shots, guys start keying on you a little more.”
Still, there are positives for the Wildcats to take away from the loss to Portledge, the 11th-ranked team on Long Island according to LongIslandBasketball.com.
“It’s certainly positive, we feel we’re a very good team, and Portledge came in highly ranked,” Barile said. “We’re disappointed because it’s a game we expected to win, but we’ve got a lot of the season left and the playoffs ahead, and, hopefully, we can use this as a positive and build on it.”
Pearce added, “We’ve got four games left before playoffs, and we just want to be ready when the end of the season comes.”
“We just have to be focused the entire game,” Regan said “Tonight, we just let them back in the game the second half, and if we do that in the playoffs, our season is done.”