I would love to do detailed rankings every week, but there aren’t enough hours in the week to get it done all the time. Considering this week was pretty wild with Beacon beating Lourdes, I figured I would type up my LoHud power rankings to provide a little explanation into my madness.
Here we go…
(Note: All records are as of January 12, and if anything is incorrect, please let me know and I’ll change it.)
1. Ossining (10-2): The Pride haven’t lost to a Section 1 opponent in seemingly forever, so until they do, this is where they will remain; and rightfully so. Ossining has more height than any other team in the section and its athleticism is nearly unparalleled. Jalay Knowles (pictured below) is considered by many to be the early frontrunner for Player of the Year honors in the area, and it’s hard to argue. Averaging 21.2 PPG and 10.2 RPG, Knowles has assumed most of the offensive production since Saniya Chong’s departure and has become a leader on the floor. With a long-range shot and decent ball-handling skills for a player her size, Knowles is a threat everywhere on the court. Even with Shadeen Samuels struggling, the Pride are the top team in the area. First-year varsity junior Stefanie Svoboda hasn’t missed a beat since taking over the starting point guard role, and Abby Squirrell provides added height in the paint for the Pride. If Samuels can find her groove again and if Squirrell can manage to stay out of foul trouble, the Pride will cruise to another gold ball.
2. Clarkstown South (11-0): It seems the Vikings have adjusted nicely to first-year coach Brian Metcalf’s system. Led by standout senior forward Laura Castaldo, the undefeated Vikings (pictured below) look poised to capture a third-straight undefeated league title and appear to be Ossining’s biggest threat at the section tournament. Clarkstown South fell just short of the County Center last year, but its run as a seven-seed showed it had great potential; especially with Castaldo returning. The 11-0 record is no fluke, either. The Vikings have notched quality wins against the likes of Tappan Zee, Pearl River, Albertus Magnus, Dobbs Ferry and Ursuline (two wins). The Vikings travel to North Rockland on Friday for what I am dubbing, the “Metcalf Bowl,” considering the two teams are coached by brothers Brian and Kevin Metcalf. I do expect South to win, but I want to see how it matches up against the up-tempo Red Raiders. North Rockland’s shooters can put up some big numbers, but Castaldo was way too much to handle last year against them (I think she dropped like 40 points). Looking at the rest of the Vikings’ schedule, North Rockland should be its last real test. Depending on what the Vikings do Friday on the road, they should be more than comfortable hosting the Red Raiders on their on court in the season finale. A possible undefeated regular season on the line and you face your brother? Not too much riding on that game.
3. Irvington (11-0): I’ve only seen the Bulldogs once this season and I wasn’t entirely sure what to make of it. Did Ardsley play that well? Did Irvington struggle? Too many unanswered questions. The one question that is answered (in my mind, at least) is, who will win the Class B section title? I’ll admit, I’m shocked that the Bulldogs are successful and I’m floored that they are undefeated this year. Losing not one, but two Division-I athletes — studs, no less — in Brittni Lai (Marist) and Lexi Martins (Lehigh) and still posting a blemish-free record? Incredible. It only speaks to the genius of head coach Gina Maher; there’s no other excuse. Under her tutelage, players like Lauren Chafizadeh and Laurilyn Gelardi (pictured below) have blossomed into full-fledged stars and youngsters like Lindsay Halpin are preparing to take over and lead the new era of Irvington basketball. Maher is projected to get her 600th career win sometime in early February, but first her team will host the Autism Classic next Sunday. An eight-team, all-day event will draw the likes of Ossining, Kennedy and Rye to Bulldog Country for a day of exceptional basketball and an even better cause.
4. Peekskill (7-2): Alright, here’s where I’m sure I grew at least a gray hair or two on Saturday. I had considered putting Peekskill at No. 4 last week, but wanted to hold off. The Lourdes loss confirms my initial belief, and bumps the Red Devils up, and moves the Warriors down (we’ll get to that later). There is so much talent on this team it’s scary; and they’re all pretty young, still, too. Lanay Rodney is catching everyone’s eye as just a sophomore. She looks like she’s grown significantly in height and weight (muscle-wise), and she is using it to her advantage — driving the lane at any given chance. Now riding a six-game winning streak since a shocking loss to Somers, the Red Devils finally seem to be playing the type of basketball everyone — myself included — expected to see after returning everyone from their section-championship squad last year. The return of Latisha Clark (broken finger) will only make Peekskill more effective on the boards and give it more options on offense. Peekskill is one of the most aggressive teams in the section; a big reason it wins games is because it is relentless at getting to the line and punishing teams when it gets there. The difference in some games can be simply that Peekskill doubled its opponents successful free-throw attempts. Peekskill had far more attempts than any other team at the Slam Dunk Tournament, and while it shot under 70 percent, when you attempt about twice as many shots as your opponents, it adds up. The Red Devils don’t appear to have any overly-challenging games the rest of the way, so it looks like it will be a race with Beacon for the No. 1 seed in Class A.
5. Beacon (10-1): Aside from the North Rockland win, the Bulldogs really haven’t impressed me with any of its wins so far this year. That’s not to say that the team itself wasn’t impressive, I’m speaking simply in terms of quality wins. Beacon absolutely has the talent to beat Peekskill, or any other team in Class A, for that matter; Saturday’s win over Lourdes proved that. I was trying to track the game as best I could on Twitter, but it looked like Beacon led the entire game, and handily most of the way, against the Warriors, making the win that much more impressive. Plus, it was on the road. Talah Hughes (pictured below) is a monster who can hang with any big in the section, and guards Leandra Echi and Brooke Dennin are a formidable tag team on offense. Echi’s ball-handling and Dennin’s 3-point shot give Beacon options from everywhere, with Hughes down low to pick up any loose trash that falls out of the rim. Although, watching Dennin shoot the lights out of North Rockland, there likely won’t be much to pick up. Another very aggressive team, I would love to see a Peekskill-Beacon championship in March. Considering the talent and hunger levels of these two, it seems highly likely right now.
6. Lourdes (7-3): Gulp. I’ve seen Lourdes four times this year, now. I know what it has and what its capable of, and what it doesn’t have and what its not capable of. From what I’ve seen, the Warriors are definitely a County Center-bound team; but I don’t see them beating Ossining or Clarkstown South. Maybe (and that’s a strong maybe) it could squeak one out against the Vikings, but definitely not Ossining. A very well-rounded squad, the Warriors have a bevy of options, highlighted by Southern Connecticut State-bound sharpshooter Paige Decker. While players like Emily Ferreri, Mary Riley, Abby Weeks, (the list goes on) provide exceptional help, neither look like they can take over a game like Decker can. Of course, the problem with that is that if Decker has an off game, the team will likely suffer. I don’t expect her to have many “off games,” hence why I still have the Warriors above Albertus Magnus, which, yes, dropped a spot despite not losing a game this week. I’ll give that explanation in the Falcons’ bio, which you can find after this. Finishing up with Lourdes, I love watching this team play. The Warriors play terrific defense (maybe not as seemingly unstoppable as last year, but still), can be efficient from the paint, mid-range or long-range, and have an excellent coach in Al Viani. I ultimately gave the nod to Lourdes over Albertus Magnus (both pictured below) because I think it has better overall depth and better quality wins (Somers, and a rout of Peekskill). It split with Albertus Magnus, and its only other loss was to Cicero-North Syracuse. That’s my logic; take it how you wish.
7. Albertus Magnus (7-2): Pretty much continuing where I left off with Lourdes, this was an incredibly tough call. Like I said, I think Lourdes had better wins to its credit and overall depth, which is why I gave it the slight nod over the Falcons. A very talented team, one knock against the Falcons is that it has little-to-no bench scoring. In the two standout games I remember — the two Peekskill games (last year’s Class A section final and this year’s Slam Dunk final) — the Red Devils owned them in bench scoring. I don’t have the figures in front of me, but I think Peekskill outscored Albertus Magnus in the ballpark of 40-3 in bench scoring between the two games. Kelly Guarino is a stud, we know that. Ryan Doherty is an excellent No. 2 option, and Madison McGrath is really coming into her own. Chantel Fils (15 points, 10 rebounds) had a big game on Friday against Nanuet, but I still think the Falcons need more scoring help to contend for the title.
8. Kennedy (8-6): Ignore the record. Kennedy may have twice or three times as many losses as anyone else on this list, but they’re good losses: Two losses to CHSAA foes Cardinal Spellman, then Lourdes, New Rochelle, Ossining and Maria Regina. The Maria Regina loss isn’t great, but the Tigers are much improved from last year thanks to first-year coach Mike Kiers. Other than that, the rest aren’t terrible losses. I saw Kennedy twice at the Albertus Magnus tournament, which featured the Lourdes and Maria Regina losses, and then I saw it on Friday against Ossining. Even in defeat, the Gaels looked a lot like last year’s section semifinalist than the sluggish team to start the season. Kiera Hennessy is a double-double machine, and Leah Greene is ridiculously quick. Losses don’t mean everything, and Kennedy is the prime example why.
9. North Rockland (5-3): Piggybacking off of what I was saying about Kennedy, take North Rockland’s losses with a side — not a grain — of salt. Beacon: tough opponent. Long Island Lutheran: one of the best Class AA teams in New York. Archbishop Molloy: another top Class AA team in New York. Not to mention the fact that LuHi coach Rich Slater was so impressed with the young Red Raiders that he reached out to North Rockland coach Kevin Metcalf and asked for a rematch next year. Alma mater B.S. aside, this is a very talented team with an enormously high ceiling in terms of potential. The only question is, can they put it all together? As of right now, I obviously have the Red Raiders as my last County Center team in Class AA, but New Rochelle (as you’ll see below) is right behind them. I think another year together has helped the team’s chemistry and getting experience at the County Center may have shaken off some nerves. Again, if North Rockland does get to the County Center, it will likely face Ossining or Clarkstown South; but the goal remains to get there. I’m anxiously awaiting the Clarkstown South game, which should give me a better idea of where North Rockland belongs and/or how high and far it could go.
10. New Rochelle (7-3): The Huguenots nearly pulled off a miracle against Peekskill at the County Center in the Slam Dunk semifinal, getting off a last-second, potential game-winning shot which some (myself included) thought was a no-foul call. (Ironic, seeing as how many fouls called that tournament.) With three quality losses (Peekskill, Lourdes and Ursuline), it’s hard to knock the Huguenots for the games in their loss column, especially considering they were right in two of them. Bruce Daniele has a ton of talent on the roster, which has every bit of a chance to return to the County Center. I love the play of Asjha White-Silas — the girl can flat out ball (and the James Worthy specs win her style points, pictured below); Amirror Dixon and Sydney Pinn are also terrific players, Dionna Rogers has tremendous potential and Nicole Ziogas provides a major spark off the bench. I dropped New Ro behind North Rockland not because of a loss to Ursuline, but because it melted down against Ursuline. After dominating the first half, the Huguenots fell flat and looked dejected on the court; not the same team that grinded back against Peekskill. I can easily see the Huguenots leaping North Rockland again this year, if not next week, but that remains to be seen.
Until next week…
Beacon photo credit: Darryl Bautista/The Poughkeepsie Journal
All other photos taken by The Journal News