This will be the last weekly installment of rankings for this season. I will do one more after section tournament, another after the regional tournament and then another after the state tournament, provided we still have a team alive. Here are my final LoHud power rankings for the 2013-14 regular season:
(Editor’s note: We will be running an extensive, full-length tournament preview feature sometime before the tournament. It will include my favorites, contenders and sleepers in each class, as well as my best first-round games, X-factors to victory, upset alert picks, County Center predictions, championship predictions, and MVP candidates and predictions. You won’t want to miss it.)
1. Ossining (16-2): The most complete team in Section 1, the Pride will be the favorites heading into the section tournament regardless of what seed they end up with. As I’ve said this season, the Pride are beatable, unlike the last two Ossining teams. A wealth of experience at the County Center should bode its players well this year, should it make it that far. The unveiling of the Nos. 1-3 seeds will play a major factor in the tournament. Unlike past years, when you could essentially hand the title to Ossining and walk away, the No. 1 seed is at a significant advantage. With Ossining, Lourdes and Clarkstown South in the mix for the top seed, the No. 1 seed will only have to (likely) beat one of these teams, while the No. 2 or No. 3 seed will have to (likely) beat two of them.
2. Clarkstown South (18-0): It’s weird; the more Clarkstown South wins, the more skepticism I hear from people about it. I don’t think anyone doubts the team’s talent, per say, but with a schedule that was weaker than Ossining and Lourdes, some think it will hurt them. I don’t. You play the schedule you’re dealt. It’s not like Clarkstown South played a cupcake schedule. Yes, league opponents Clarkstown North and East Ramapo are easier wins, but the Vikings still played Ursuline twice, North Rockland twice, Albertus Magnus, Tappan Zee, etc. and beat them all. Inexperience at the County Center may play a factor, but we won’t find that out if/when the Vikings get there.
3. Lourdes (15-3): I think Lourdes is going to make a lot of noise in the Class AA bracket. The Warriors seem to be playing some excellent ball lately, and if you mix that with their depth, coaching and hunger, it makes for a deadly combination come postseason time. Like Ossining and Clarkstown South, the Warriors’ seed will say a lot about how far they will likely go. I had Lourdes as my preseason No. 1 team, and with the way it has been playing, do not be surprised if it hoists the gold ball in March.
4. Beacon (15-2): The Bulldogs headline a ridiculous Class A field that will feature about half a dozen possible champions, and other half dozen potential County Center teams. Like Class A, I think seeding will play a big factor. People were stunned when Peekskill won as an outbracket team last year, but I think with the number of teams who will qualify and the level of talent in Class A, you really can’t sleep on anybody. I belief in the second half of the season has been that whichever team is the most consistent, will likely win Class A. I think that, to this point, that team has been Beacon. We’ll have to see what the seeds reveal, because if the Bulldogs have to beat, say, Albertus Magnus, Peekskill, Rye and Nanuet (I’m just throwing names out), that will be a tough, tough task.
5. Peekskill (14-4): I was very surprised, but more so impressed, at how Peekskill played without standout sophomore Lanay Rodney. The guard, who missed a few games with a hip injury, returned to the court this week in the Lady Red Devils’ season finale against Lakeland. If Peekskill can win games handily without Rodney, it will be incredibly tough to beat in the playoffs. Between her postseason and Slam Dunk experience, Rodney has always performed well at the County Center. Coach Rodney Headley Jr. said that she jokes, “These are my rims,” about the landmark. Confidence is not an issue with this team, talent is definitely not an issue, and despite its youth, neither is experience. Consistency is what will make or break this team.
6. Rye (13-4): There will be quite a few teams watching on to see if Rye wins on Monday. A Garnets win to push them to the .750 winning percentage mark, which will earn two bonus points for each of its opponents, instead of one. Ossining really took it to the Garnets in their rematch, after Rye fell my four in the first meeting, but then again, it’s Ossining. I think most fans are well aware that Rye is a contender in Class A and is a serious threat to win it all. It has the defensive presence and offensive balance to make a deep run, so we’ll see what Rye’s road looks like when the seeds are released on Tuesday.
7. Albertus Magnus (14-4): A very hot team in the second half of the season, Albertus Magnus could end up with the No. 1 seed in Class A. MSG Varsity currently has it tied with Beacon for the top spot, so we’ll see how that unfolds. The Falcons don’t have a ton of height to them, unlike teams like Beacon, Peekskill and Rye, and historically, they have struggled with rebounding because of it. Luckily for Pat Buckley’s girls, they can shoot and they are very well conditioned. If the Falcons play the game at their pace and are shooting moderately well-to-very well, there’s no telling how far they can go. Albertus Magnus has made the County Center ever year under Buckley, and I don’t see that trend changing this year. The Falcons undoubtedly still have a sour taste of last year’s championship loss to Peekskill in their mouths, so expect this team to leave everything on the court this postseason.
8. Ursuline (12-6): A couple of those losses came this weekend against other Ursuline teams from around the country, so don’t put too much stock in that. The Koalas get a bump because I think they’ve been playing well and because of losses suffered by Irvington and Horace Greeley. Ursuline is a great “under-the-radar” pick for Class AA, and that’s if you can say they are “under the radar.” Of its six losses, two were to rival Ursuline schools, and another two were to Clarkstown South. Beth Wooters knows how to coach a team into, and well beyond the section tournament, and this team is very young. I don’t think this is Ursuline’s year to win it all, but next year very well could be. I think Ursuline should get to the County Center, despite all of the talent in Class AA. If the Koalas draw Clarkstown South in the semifinals, that could be one heck of a game.
9. Irvington (15-2): No, this wasn’t the strongest schedule Irvington has had in recent years, but does that diminish its talent? Not at all. Dobbs Ferry, another talented team, despite its record, played Irvington tough earlier this year, so the win wasn’t that big of an upset in my eyes. Still, the fact that the Bulldogs have been able to go from the 2009 section final to Tuesday without losing to a Class B team in Section 1 speaks a lot of the program. Coach Gina Maher has been working some of her reserves in more to better prepare her team for the postseason. Having seen a bulk of the top teams in Class B, oddly enough, I think the only team that can beat it is Dobbs Ferry; maybe Westlake if it shoots the lights out of the County Center (very doable) and is able to stop Laurilyn Gelardi in the paint (a much taller task). Like Ossining, I think this year’s Irvington is beatable, but still favored to win.
10. Ardsley (15-3): I’ve had Ardsley on the bubble for what seems like forever, and between a strong finish to the season and Harrison’s massive upset over Horace Greeley, I’m giving the Panthers the nod. Coach Michael Pollio has a very guard-oriented team that has shown the ability to put quick runs together, but at the same time, has shown vulnerability where it shouldn’t. An incredibly young and talented team, I think Ardsley can do a lot of damage in Class A this year (along with seemingly everybody else). Like everywhere in Class A, seeding will be a huge factor. Draws against any teams with height could be a problem for the Panthers, but they will give most guard-oriented teams nightmares. Almost everyone on the court can shoot long-range with relative consistency, and they’re quick. Ardsley is a team I’ve had my eye on, but haven’t really been able to give the bump until now. Even if it took a little extra help from Horace Greeley, the Panthers have earned their keep.
On the bubble: Arlington, Dobbs Ferry, Hackley, Hen Hud, Mahopac, New Rochelle, Sleepy Hollow, Somers, Tappan Zee, Westlake.
Photo credit: The Journal News