As 2009 slowly winds down, I witnessed the jumpoff-turned-dumpoff of the century at the famed Westchester County Center in White Plains, N.Y. tonight. It was a wild washout few could have envisioned.
White Plains, a reputable Section I program which traditionally churns out Division I talent, was expected to defend their castle at the annual Slam Dunk Challenge.
North Rockland unleashed the big game beast within them. They also registered their imprint as the new kids on the block and sent Section I a message.
The message was clear and in giant print:
"We're for real."
The uptempo, well-balanced Red Raiders reeled off an eye-opening 22-2 second half surge in breakneck fashion, shanking Goliath in the belly with a 59-43 blowout at the house that (Mount Vernon product) Ben Gordon built.
Ironically enough, this score is almost identical to that of the last MAJOR jumpoff turned dumpoff that took place in the County Center. That was in 2003, when Jamal Webb and No.5 Tuckahoe spearheaded a monumental upset over No.1 Hastings.
The final was 59-44, with Webb dropping 31 points, leaving jaws littered all over the creaky gym's floor. Of course, Webb caught the boot from Wagner his junior year. Seahawks coach Mike Deane, who wouldn't really divulge aspects at the core of his decision, kicked Webb off for violation of team rules. A lot of his teammates were confused as to why JWebb-who was injected into the starting lineup his freshman year--was sent home.
Word around the 914-area campfire, JWEBB is beasting and feasting...Only in pickup games at nearby Concordia College. Did he flame out while steering the Northeast Conference pressure cooker?
I'm not certain, but a prolific scorer of that type could potentially find a hardwood home somewhere overseas and get a nice hefty paycheck. I saw him play at Wagner and he was nowhere near the player he was during Class C's greatest, most highly-anticipated, evenly-matched year ever (which happened to be his senior year): 2003.
You shoulda seen it man. You shoulda been there. Gyms were jam-packed, standing room only and cats were claiming seats hours before tip off. Students were blowing the roof off of gymnasiums. There was madness, mayhem, memorable matchups and madhouse crowds fighting each other physically and verbally every other night. It was otherwordly, off the charts. I gas you not.
Shit, workaday Class C matchups were being heavily analyzed, thoroughly dissected and people were losing sleep over how to stop the quartet of small-school teams which were state-ranked. 2003, known mainly as the year of Class C.
Here are some game notes for you cats to sift through:
-North Rockland would burst out of the gates smoking, running off to an 11-5 start with their run-and-gun style.
-Shit man, I didn't know former Westchester Community assistant Dave Vandiver, who coached Woodlands HS (Greenburgh, N.Y.) during their period of hoops prosperity, is now an assistant at WP. Vandiver is the man who helped South Florida's 6-foot-11 Jarrid Famous evolve from everyday sucker to bad motherfucker. Big ups to my man big Van.
-After a lackluster first half during which White Plains' energy sagged (they went Houdini in the first half of their 46-44 victory over hometown rival Stepinac but were bailed out by Alexis Nunez' game-winning three-pointer off an inbounds pass), North Rockland led 22-14 at the intermission.
-The Tigers scratch and claw their way back from the deficit, knotting it up at 30-30 on Bobby Jones' interior banker. White Plains is on a smoking 16-8 surge.
-Will Davis, the spindly southpaw and the only Tiger who seemed to solve the County Center rims (White Plains shot a paltry 18-for-50), drained two jumpers and Nick Cutsumpas (replace that first S in his name with a C, and you've got one helluva smut name!) buried a big trey during the uphill spurt.
-Rockland continues to facilitate their running game, as Terrel Smith scores on an end-to-end layup to supply North Rockland with a 36-32 edge in the waning minutes of the third.
-The momentum seesaw falls on the Red Raiders' side of the sand. Jorge Cruz is knocked down and fouled on a three-pointer, much to the chagrin of White Plains coach Spencer Mayfield. Mayfield, a mild-mannered cat but never a big fan of the local referees, is animated. Cruz knocks down all three free throw attempts as the Tigers fans' palms are starting to sweat.
-North Rockland has a nice handsome 39-32 lead. They escaped the semi-finals with an upset over Long Island Lutheran, which no longer boasts stud brothers, guard Tyler and Tennesse-bound forward Tobias Harris. Can NR shock the 914 hoops culture and cop that highly sought after gold ball?
-A Steve Carey corner jumper, followed by a John Perez fast break finish (Jones was whistled for goaltending), is rapidly followed by a Jorge Cruz trey. Sizzling North Rockland is riding a 12-0 run, giving them a 42-32 bulge. It's looking like Christmas came late for North Rockland here at the house that Ben built.
-A Perez bucket makes it a 16-2 North Rockland power surge. An incensed Mayfield calls for time. 50-32 Red Raiders. Could anyone have foreseen this? The Red Raiders are bleeding swag.
-White Plains is in the desert. They've endured a severe power outage, scoring just two points in the fourth quarter with 3:23 remaining.
-A Jorge Cruz interior bucket caps an 18-2 run. Nunez finally thwarts the wild, breakneck run but it's too little too late. Mayfield is beginning to empty out the bench, with the paper-slim neophytes checking in.
John Perez was named Tournament MVP with 19 points (9-of-14 FG) and a game-high four steals in 23 minutes. Jorge Cruz added 16 for the newly-minted SLAM DUNK CHALLENGE CHAMPS.
The Raiders' Jorge Cruz and Tigers' Nick Cutsumpas were both named to the All-Tournament team.
It was bedlam in the house that Ben built.