Even though it seems like something big happens every week, this week really had some eye-openers, making my power rankings more than the usual fun it is each week. I wanted a decent night’s rest before just spewing my new top 10 out after a wild day of basketball on Sunday and crunching everything from stats to scores and schedules all week. We’ve got two new teams in the rankings this week, both of whom are also making their season debuts.
1. Ossining (12-2): For a team that has won three consecutive Section 1 championships and last year’s state championship, the Pride were having a rough week. A back-and-forth nail-biter with Rye luckily fell in their favor, escaping with a 58-54 win, and the first three minutes of yesterday’s game against Carmel were a shock. Then, like any great team, the switch flipped. Ossining ran off 14 unanswered points in about a minute and a half and put up more than 50 points at the half. Pride coach Dan Ricci shared the love the rest of the game, putting everyone in the game for significant time en route to an 86-42 rout of Carmel. Jalay Knowles (28 points) was the dominant force she always is and Abby Squirrell (18 points, pictured below) had a huge game, both only playing three quarters. Shadeen Samuels looks to be getting back into full form, showing an aggressiveness and confidence that has been missing since the beginning of the season. With 10 different scorers, the Pride showed that it doesn’t matter who is on the court — they can score at will. A big Ossining win wasn’t a surprise, but they way it worked the ball and seemingly did everything right was very impressive.
2. Clarkstown South (14-0): With Irvington’s loss, the Vikings are now the last undefeated team standing in Section 1. With its thrilling 64-61 win over North Rockland, the two-time league champs have a good opportunity of taking that undefeated record into the season finale… against North Rockland. The Vikings showed Friday that while it has arguably the best player in the section in Laura Castaldo, everyone is a threat on the court. Kayla Tucek and Jenna Feinberg had big games in the win, and Caitlin Collamore provides a nice, additional inside presence to Castaldo. Some could debate that North Rockland lost most of its games last year, meaning “it lost the game,” but not Friday. Clarkstown South won. It was the better team, and everyone in the gym knows it.
3. Beacon (12-1): The Bulldogs can thank Irvington and Peekskill losses for a giant kick into the top three, although their talent definitely deserves to be here. With Rye’s win, Peekskill’s loss, and Beacon staying the course (wins over Arlington and Ketcham), I really can’t wait for the Class A tournament to begin. Wednesday’s rematch with Lourdes should be another terrific match. Another win will solidify its spot, whereas a loss will kind of balance out two great programs. If Beacon can beat the Warriors on the road, there’s no reason why it can’t win at home; especially knowing it has already beaten them. Coach Christina Dahl and Co. could definitely be hoisting gold at the end of the season.
4. Peekskill (9-3): I’m giving the Red Devils the nod over Irvington for the simple fact that I think it is more balanced than the Bulldogs. After Lauren Chafizadeh fouled out with six minutes left in the fourth quarter, the Bulldogs played pretty much neck-and-neck with Rye. However, with her, they led by as many as 10 points. Peekskill is one of the deepest teams of any class in the section. No, I have not seen it play without top player (and sophomore) Lanay Rodney for the final 10 minutes of an essentially tied game against a tough team, but I have seen its bench in action. I love the spark that junior Kiarra Dillard gives Peekskill when she comes in. She’ll come in, ice cold off the bench, and then just splash home a 3-pointer or long jumper within seconds. Senior forward Latisha Clark is averaging a double-double (10. 4 PPG, 10.2 RPG) in her five games back from injury, including more than five offensive boards a game. If Beacon wants to win that gold ball, it will have to pry it from Peekskill’s dead, lifeless fingers and kung-fu grip. (Yes, that’s a movie quote.)
5. Irvington (12-1): I did say Irvington was on upset alert, didn’t I? In a terrific game, the Bulldogs dropped their first contest of the year, but that seems to mean very little to Irvington coach Gina Maher, who many have speculated took on a weaker schedule to attempt an undefeated season. Most of my analysis on Irvington was in Peekskill’s bio above, so I want to use this to talk about the incredible professionalism of Maher. No reporter likes to talking to a coach after a loss — forget about a loss to end a perfect season. Some coaches are short, angry, and a select few, down right nasty. Not Maher. Like the seasoned veteran coach she is, Maher shrugged the loss off and focused on the positives. If you didn’t read her post-game interview, I strongly suggest you take a minute to do so. Maher made no excuses for the loss — mainly Chafizadeh fouling out — and instead said that it taught her that she needs to use more players in bigger games. Great coaches learn from losses, and Maher is a legend.
Recap of Gina Maher’s post-game interview: Compliments on Rye: 7 Times she said “losses are good”: 5 Excuses made for loss: 0
— Mike Zacchio (@Zacchio_LoHud) January 20, 2014
6. Lourdes (9-3): Nobody is writing off the Warriors in Class AA. Ricci and South coach Brian Metcalf are very aware of the shark lurking in the ocean that is Lourdes. Much like what I said about Beacon, Wednesday’s rematch should be tremendous. I have more than enough on my plate that day, but I would gladly make a trip to see two teams we don’t cover, just because.
7. Albertus Magnus (7-3): It seems like forever since we’ve seen or heard from the Falcons, who played just one game between Jan. 10-21. Magnus made a trip down to Washington, D.C., where it fell to Georgetown Visitation Prep. i’m going to pretend like I know anything about GVP, but perhaps the Falcons were a little rusty from not playing that often. No worries, the Falcons will play three times this week — including two against Pearl River. I will be covering tomorrow’s game, which will be the first time the two have met since last year’s Section 1 Class A semifinal, which No. 4 Albertus Magnus won over the No. 1 seed in double overtime. The two meet again on Sunday.
8. Horace Greeley (11-1): That near-upset of Ossining? No fluke. The Quakers topped Peekskill earlier this week, 61-55, to earn a spot in the top 10. While losses around the section may have helped, Horace Greeley have proved it belongs among the section’s elite. The Class AA team, which no one seems to be talking about, will take to the court against Ossining again tomorrow. The Quakers led after three quarters in the first meeting, then the Shadeen Samuels Show took center stage. A win tomorrow could shoot Horace Greeley up the ranks, drop the Pride out of No. 1, and really stir up the section. The Quakers also face fellow rankings rookie Rye this week. We’ll see.
9. Rye (9-3): Another team that has finally landed in the top 10, Rye’s win over Irvington yesterday gave the Bulldogs their first loss and added to the Garnets’ own list of quality wins, which now includes Hackley and Byram Hills. The Garnets also went toe-to-toe with Ossining. The Garnets would probably love to avenge an early season loss to Horace Greeley on Thursday. I’ll try and swing by that one.
10. North Rockland (6-4): Go ahead, grab your torch and pitch forks — I’m keeping North Rockland in, meaning that Kennedy and New Rochelle are out. First, why North Rockland is in. I said that Friday’s game against Clarkstown South would likely be a make-or-break game for the Red Raiders. The 64-61 loss was the best I’ve seen them play in the last two years, and you’d be hard pressed to find someone who didn’t agree. North Rockland was aggressive and relentless all game. Coach Kevin Metcalf chose not to foul down by two with 26 seconds left, instead opting to attempt a steal. If North Rockland fouls right away, maybe the outcome would’ve been different. (I still think Clarkstown South had it.) All four of North Rockland’s losses are to state-ranked opponents, three of which are in the top 15 of their respective classes. Clarkstown South, Beacon and Long Island Lutheran — three of North Rockland’s losses — have a combined record of 35-2. Archbishop Molloy has a loaded CHSAA schedule which has featured some of the best teams in the state. The Stanners’ reputation also precedes them. Now, why Kennedy and New Rochelle are out. Kennedy (10-8), like Molloy, plays a tough CHSAA schedule, so its record isn’t the best indicator. Five of its losses have come to state-ranked teams, four of which came to teams ranked No. 7 or better in their respective classes. North Rockland doesn’t have any real quality wins other than Pearl River, but it has no bad losses. Kennedy has Maria Regina, Ursuline and New Rochelle. Now, by “bad losses” I’m nit-picking by state rankings; Ursuline and New Rochelle are both very good. Ursuline has two wins over New Ro, which collapsed in the second half of both games. Ursuline is right on the bubble, with about five other teams (see below). North Rockland should earn three wins this week, so any losses will knock it out.
On the bubble (in alphabetical order): Ardsley, Kennedy, Mahopac, New Rochelle, Somers, Tappan Zee, Ursuline.