Rye Country Day Boys’ Basketball
Wildcats Edge Friends Seminary in a 56-54 Thriller to Claim NYSAIS Crown
By Mitch Silver
Rye Country Day first-year Head Coach Brendan Barile knew his team faced a tall order if they were to capture the championship of the New York State Association of Independent Schools. Specifically, it was 6’6’’ tall in the form of Friends Seminary center Michael Dixon.
The 280-lb. Dixon dominated on the glass to lead the second-seeded Owls to a first-round victory over Packer 65-57 and again when they ran away from Staten Island Academy in their NYSAIS semifinal, 66-37. The Wildcats don’t have anyone taller than 6’2”, so that matchup would be a major problem.
Of course, you don’t win 21 games on the season without players who can shoot from the outside, and the Quaker school has two: Henry Lieber and Evan Glatzer. They would combine for 34 points against the Wildcats by dropping a combined eight three-point shots—six of them in the second half—in the title game.
Rye Country Day, though, had two advantages going in. One, their bench is longer and deeper than Friends’—Barile’s athletes would try to run the Owls’ starters into the ground. Two, while the game would be played on Fieldston’s neutral court, the Wildcats played three games there earlier in the season. Sort of a home away from home.
As it happened, Dixon scored 14 first-half points on post-up moves and tap-ins. Senior co-captain Allan Houston III was designated as Dixon’s main defender, but he was giving away nearly 100 pounds. And yes, Rye Country Day ran every chance they could. Their main weapon proved to be senior swingman Shane Regan. The lefty slashed inside whenever the offense started to sputter. And it sputtered a lot: collectively, the Wildcats made only three of the 21 long-range shots they attempted. Fortunately for them, Regan’s 11 first-half points nearly nullified Dixon’s advantage at the other end of the floor.
While Houston went scoreless in the game’s first 16 minutes, his fellow captain, senior Billy O’Meara, hit a couple of treys to keep things close. At the half it was 22-21 Friends.
Regan kept up his scoring pace in the third quarter, making four buckets while O’Meara chipped in five points. With baskets by Houston (finally) and guards Shane Robinson and Ben Pierce, the Wildcats took the lead at the end of three, 40-35.
By the final quarter, the game had turned inside-out. Dixon was held to a single basket in the last eight minutes, but Lieber kept his team in the game with his three-point shooting. Meanwhile, Houston scored four and Robinson five, including a bucket his coach called “the biggest shot of Brett’s career.”
With the game tied at 48, the spindly point guard collected the ball at the top of the key after the offense had broken down once again. His unhesitating three-pointer hit nothing but net to put his team ahead to stay. Robinson would contribute in another, unexpected way—the speedy but lightweight 5’10” guard hauled down 11 rebounds for the game.
The win gives the Class of 2019 three major titles: they captured championships on the gridiron, the ice, and now the hardwood. Not bad.