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Let the march to the County Center begin!
Mount Vernon, Tappan Zee, Dobbs Ferry and Tuckahoe earned No. 1 seeds when the Section 1 boys basketball tournament brackets were officially released on Monday afternoon.
The tournament begins on Wednesday with outbracket games. The opening round is Friday, and quarterfinals are set in Class AA for Tuesday, Feb. 21 and in Class A and B on Wednesday, Feb. 22. The semifinals and finals — “Championship Week” — will be Feb. 27-March 4 at the Westchester County Center.
Before we dive into this year’s tournament, here’s last year’s champions:
2011 Tournament Review
AA: Mount Vernon defeated Poughkeepsie
A: Byram Hills defeated Pearl River
B: Albertus Magnus defeated Dobbs Ferry
C: Tuckahoe defeated Haldane
D: Clark Academy defeated Greenburgh
Now, MSG Varsity basketball expert Kevin Devaney Jr. breaks down the Classes AA, A and B brackets:
Favorite: Mount Vernon. Of all the great teams in school history, the Knights may never have been this heavy a favorite to win a Gold Ball. They blew through the regular season, outscoring Section 1 opponents by an average of 32.9 points per game with none closer than 25.
Challengers: Fox Lane, Mahopac and Clarkstown South. The second best team talent-wise in the conference is probably New Rochelle. But, if the Huguenots advance, their likely looking at a quarterfinal date at Mount Vernon. The three teams above have all had stretches of exceptional basketball.
Team you don’t want to face: North Rockland. The Red Raiders have hit some bumps this season but, with a young group, is better because of it. Take away an ugly loss at Clarkstown South and North Rockland was in position to win any of the six games they lost. Given how deep and athletic they are, it’s a scary matchup.
Darkhorse: Horace Greeley. The 11th seeded Quakers seem due. Last year they were upset by a talented Clarkstown South squad, and they’ve lost a bunch of heartbreakers this season. If this team can put it together for four quarters and close out, there’s no reason to think they can’t sneak into the County Center.
Top opening-round game: No. 13 John Jay-EF at No. 5 Clarkstown South. Many might point to Mamaroneck-New Rochelle as the marquee game after they split in the regular season. But the John Jay-South game has the potential for greatness given the scoring ability of Jay junior Nick Segarra, who’s an incredible long-range shooter.
Best chance of an upset: No. 11 Greeley over No. 6 Arlington. The Admirals are definitely deserving of their No. 6 seed after winning 13 games. But the Quakers played a slightly tougher schedule and has the depth of guards to matchup with Arlington’s talented backcourt.
Best potential quarterfinal: Obviously, a New Rochelle-Mount Vernon matchup is always going to draw a huge crowd. But the potential of Carmel-Clarkstown South meeting could be one of the best games of the tournament. Neither has been to the County Center in quite a while and this might be their best shot.
Ten players to watch: Isaiah Cousins (6-4, Sr., PG) Mount Vernon; Randy Stephens (6-4, Sr., G) Mount Vernon; Will Trawick (6-5, Sr., F); Mike McCahey (6-6, Sr., G/F), Clarkstown South; Jarell Marshall (6-6, Sr., F), Mount Vernon; Brendan Hymes (6-4, Soph., F), Mahopac; Nick Segarra (5-10, Jr., G), John Jay-EF; Clayton Roker (6-0, Sr., G), Clarkstown South; Qwedere Lovell (6-0, Sr., G), Mount Vernon; Matt Mezansky (6-0, Sr., PG), Mamaroneck.
Five names to learn: Harrison Brown (6-4, Jr., F), Horace Greeley; David Haye (6-0, Sr., G), Ramapo; Chris Elefante (5-11, Sr., G), New Rochelle; Jamal Lewis (6-4, Jr., F), Mount Vernon; Akeem Williams (6-5, Sr., F), White Plains.
Opening round: Mount Vernon over Scarsdale; New Rochelle over Mamaroneck; Carmel over White Plains; Clarkstown South over John Jay-EF; Mahopac over Ossining; Greeley over Arlington; North Rockland over Ramapo; Fox Lane over Suffern
Quarterfinal: Mount Vernon over New Rochelle; Carmel over Clarkstown South; Mahopac over Greeley; Fox Lane over North Rockland
Semifinals: Mount Vernon over Carmel; Fox Lane over Mahopac
Championship: Mount Vernon over Fox Lane
MVP pick: Randy Stephens, Mount Vernon
Favorite: Tappan Zee. The undefeated Dutchmen are brimming with confidence and why not? They ran through the gauntlet of Rockland County competition and beat defending champ Byram Hills in the final week to cap the best season in school history. The target on their backs has gotten quite large.
Challengers: Peekskill and Kennedy. These two teams help make this Section 1’s best conference. Both have played extraordinarily well at times and looked like a championship team. The pressure is almost entirely on TZ. Don’t be shocked if either of these teams, though, is hoisting the Gold Ball in the end.
Team you don’t want to face: Byram Hills. It doesn’t matter what seed the Bobcats are, after last year, they’re perhaps the most feared team in the bracket. Obviously, the health of star guard Jeff Lynch will be crucial. If he’s playing, as expected, the Bobcats will be a tough out.
Darkhorse: Rye. Other than Tappan Zee, nobody is playing better basketball of late in the conference than Rye. The Garnets closed out the regular season by winning six of nine, including two wins over defending champ Byram Hills, a 14-win Pleasantville team and a strong Greeley squad. Rye could make noise.
Best outbracket: No. 20 Lourdes at No. 13 Beacon. The Dutchess County rivals know eachother all too well. They split their regular season meetings. Round 3 will earn the winner a trip to Kennedy in the opening round.
Top opening-round game: No. 12 Rye at No. 5 Byram Hills. Two of the most surprising games of the season were the two Rye wins over the defending champs. The Garnets, who’ll have to win an outbracket game to get to this one, will have to do it a third time, which is no easy task. Rye is playing with tremendous confidence while Byram stumbled down the stretch.
Best chance of an upset (I): No. 11 Poughkeepsie over No. 6 Pelham. The Pelicans surged through the second half of the season but Poughkeepsie is, well, still Poughkeepsie. Despite the Pioneers’ inconsistency, they did beat the likes of Newburgh and Arlington. Their history of playing well in February can’t be ignored.
Best chance of an upset (II): No. 7 Saunders over No. 10 Brewster. Yes, Saunders is the No. 7 seed. But few will pick the Blue Devils to win. I like this matchup as long as they can get out in the open floor and not get beat too much on the glass against a bigger Brewster team. This is a very winnable game.
Best potential quarterfinal: No. 11 Poughkeepsie at No. 3 Eastchester. Given the injuries Pelham is dealing with, possibly getting Poughkeepsie in the first round is a rough draw. If the Pioneers advance, it could set up one of the biggest games in Eastchester basketball history.
Ten players to watch: Pat Peterson (6-2, Sr., G), Tappan Zee; Thiago Randazzo (6-6, Sr., F), Kennedy; Dave Solano (6-3, Sr., F), Eastchester; Andrew Maloney (6-1, Sr., G), Byram Hills; Jeff Lynch (6-0, Sr., G), Byram Hills; Chandler Pierce (6-2, Sr., G), Peekskill; Max Twyman (6-5, Jr, F), Rye; Joe Clinton (6-0, Sr., G), Pearl River; Billy O’Shea (6-4, Sr., F), Tappan Zee; Ryan Golden (6-2, Jr., G), Byram Hills.
Five names to learn: Jack Daly (6-0, Sr., PG), Eastchester; Kevin Degnan (6-6, Soph., F), Pearl River; Brian McLaughlin (6-0, Sr., G), Tappan Zee; Jerrell Benitez (5-11, Sr., G), Saunders; Alex Pearlman (6-6, Sr., F), Lakeland.
Outbracket: Pearl River over Yonkers; Riverside over Nyack; Brewster over Sleepy Hollow; Poughkeepsie over Hen Hud; Rye over Ardsley; Beacon over Lourdes; Panas over Harrison; John Jay-CR over Somers; Spring Valley over Lakeland.
Opening round: Tappan Zee over Spring Valley; Pearl River over Riverside; Kennedy over Beacon; Byram Hills over Rye; Saunders over Brewster; Eastcheter over Panas; Poughkeepsie over Pelham; Peekskill over John Jay-CR.
Quarterfinal: Tappan Zee over Pearl River; Kennedy over Byram Hills; Eastchester over Poughkeepsie; Peekskill over Saunders
Semifinals: Tappan Zee over Kennedy; Peekskill over Eastchester
Championship: Tappan Zee over Peekskill
MVP Pick: Joe Letizia, Tappan Zee
Favorite: Albertus Magnus. The defending champs, despite not being the No. 1 seed, have to still be considered the favorite. They went 16-2, lost only to undefeated Tappan Zee twice, and have two of the conferences best players (Tylery Sayre and Pat McGuinness) and perhaps the most underrated (Jack Sullivan). The road to a title, however, is quite bumpy.
Challengers: Dobbs Ferry and Woodlands. These teams split their regular season meetings and have a host of impressive victories on the rest of their resumes. Woodlands is being picked by many to win it all after knocking off AA No. 2 seed Fox Lane. Dobbs Ferry, though, has a 17-1 record and a roster of multisport athletes who aren’t used to losing.
Team you don’t want to face: Briarcliff. The Bears ended the a great second half of the season on a down note, losing to Pleasantville in a wild game on Saturday night. Still the Bears have front-court talent and backcourt depth to match up — and beat — any team in the conference.
Darkhorse: Pleasantville. It’s weird calling a No. 4 seed a “Darkhorse” but there’s the perception that there’s a gap between the Top 3 seeds in this bracket and the rest of it. Pleasantville just may have turned a corner in Saturday’s win, showing great composure and poise late in beating Briarcliff. That’s what it’s going to take to win playoff games.
Top opening-round game: No. 10 Bronxville at No. 7 Briarcliff. This is an interesting matchup because Bronxville is one of the few teams that can match the physicality of the Bears. Briarcliff is coming off a crushing loss to Pleasantville on Saturday and could have their eyes on the next round. They can’t take Bronxville lightly.
Best chance of an upset: No. 12 Westlake over No. 5 Blind Brook. The Trojans have been up and down this season while Westlake played a rigorous league schedule. When they’ve been at full strength, Westlake was right there with Pleasantville, Briarcliff and Croton, but couldn’t get over the hump. This might be the game they finally do.
Best potential quarterfinal: No. 7 Briarcliff at No. 2 Albertus Magnus. The potential of a Pleasantville-Blind Brook quarterfinal is intriguing considering Mike Welsh coaches Blind Brook and brother Chris Welsh is head coach at Pleasantville. But a potential Briarcliff-Albertus matchup could be one of the most interesting games of the tournament. Briarcliff is so good down low and could match up well with Tyler Sayre. If the Bears limit the turnovers that cost them against Pleasantville, look out.
Ten players to watch: Brian Daniels (6-4, Jr., F); Tyler Sayre (6-5, Sr., F); Pat McGuinness (6-0, Sr., PG); Eric Paschall (6-6, Soph., F); Andre Scipio (5-9, Jr., PG), Woodlands; Reece Williams (6-2, Sr., G), Woodlands; John Yozzo-Scaperrotta (6-2, Sr., F), Dobbs Ferry; Fred Bowers (6-6, Sr., F), Woodlands; Jack Sullivan (6-0, Sr., G), Albertus Magnus; Antoine Saliba (6-4, Sr., F), Blind Brook.
Five names to learn: Glen Robinson (Sr., F), Pleasantville; Terence Tribble (Sr., F), Valhalla; Wes Turner (6-3, Sr., F), Croton-Harmon; Tyriek Johnson (6-0, Jr., G); Thomas Fleming (6-6, Sr., F), Dobbs Ferry.
Opening round: Rye Neck over Valhalla; Pleasantville over Hastings; Westlake over Blind Brook; Woodlands over North Salem; Croton over Pawling; Briarcliff over Bronxville; Albertus Magnus over Putnam Valley
Quarterfinal: Albertus Magnus over Briarcliff; Dobbs Ferry over Rye Neck; Pleasantville over Westlake; Woodlands over Croton.
Semifinals: Dobbs Ferry over Pleasantville; Albertus Magnus over Woodlands
Championship: Albertus Magnus over Dobbs Ferry
MVP Pick: Tyler Sayre, Albertus Magnus
Class C preview will be posted before next week’s quarterfinals
Email Kevin Devaney Jr. at firstname.lastname@example.org