Saturday, January 11, 2014

Physical Tigers Stave Off Mahopac In Hoops For Cure Win

 White Plains got the interior production and manpower needed from 6-foot-3 forward Justin Tapper and spindly 6-foot-6 freshman Jordan Tucker.

The Tigers got a Game MVP performance from senior point guard Mike DeMello, who scored 16 points and knocked back 10-of-12 free throws.

Above all, the Tigers got the anger stemming from a putrid loss to vaunted Mount Vernon out of its system.

The result? 

A physical 51-43 grind-out victory over previously unbeaten Mahopac at New Roc City Saturday night.

“Mount Vernon was a wake up call for us, it was rough because we played fine until the fourth quarter and then we fell apart,” said DeMello, whose four straight free throws iced it after Mahopac misfired on three consecutive shots.

“We definitely wanted to take our anger (from the Mount Vernon loss) out on Mahopac. It’s always the next man up though, the focus is always shifted to the next game. We just beat a great Mahopac team.”

Tapper and Tucker, tasked with keeping Mahopac’s veritable man-child Ryan Simone in check, combined for 19 of White Plains’ 32 rebounds.

Simone, whose rapid evolution as a double-double threat has been an unsung story, had 10 points and corralled seven boards. It was the first time Simone dipped under a double-double this season.

The Tigers out-dueled the Indians on the boards, 32-26.

“Coach (Spencer) Mayfield basically emphasized toughness,” said Tapper, who had six points and seven boards in 29 minutes.

“He told us that we have to be aggressive on the boards and that Simone is a really physical body in the paint. Rex (Noel) and Jordan did a great job of grabbing boards and staying aggressive throughout. You have to give it up to Mahopac, they are a very physical team."

Noel had 10 points in 22 minutes. Bullish Chris Jordan added seven points, including a 3-pointer that received a fortuitous roll during the first half.

Mahopac (8-1) was not so fortuitous.

Section 1’s version of the three blind mice, abusing their whistle privileges (simultaneously halting the tempo for both sides) didn't exactly augment the Indians' chances.  

The biggest thorn in White Plains’ side was from R.J. Martinez’ shooting hand.  

Martinez, negated by three first-half fouls, scored all 17 of his points during a second half shooting spree.

After sitting for some of the second quarter, Martinez made every one of his second half minutes count.

His individual 7-0 surge sparked the Indians during the third quarter. Martinez went on to drain a steady salvo of pull-up jumpers and carve his way to the bucket.

The senior two-guard sliced White Plains’ lead to 39-36, carving into the lane for a nifty banker with 5:23 remaining.

Free throws played a major role in the final outcome.

White Plains cashed in, shooting 16-for-21 from charity. Mahopac shot a meager 6-for-16.

Dan Foley buried a 3-pointer from the corner which ignited the Indians' bench, setting the table for an eruption from Martinez (7-for-14 FG, 2-6 3FG).

Martinez, DeMello's teammate during the BCANY tournament last August, netted a jumper that cut it to 46-40 with 1:47 remaining.

“I thought (R.J.) played great, the fouls called on him were questionable but he had just an awesome second half,” said Mahopac coach Kevin Downes.

“He certainly proved what he was capable of. You’ve got to be able to adjust. Getting your key kids in foul trouble, it is tough. Hey, we had our chances.”

When asked to elaborate on the officiating, the same whistle-happy incompetence that eliminated the speedball style of the renewed Mount Vernon/White Plains rivalry game on Wednesday, Downes cut it short.

“If I was in the NBA, I’d probably get a fine,” Downes explained.

The actual physical fouls, coupled with the barrage of slap/light tap tacky fouls called, created a low-scoring first half. It hampered the style and fractured the tempo of both teams.

White Plains built the lead to double-digits in the first half.

After drilling two straight free throws to give the Tigers a 15-7 edge, DeMello came up with a steal and whipped the rock up the court to a streaking Tucker.

Tucker drew a foul and hit both free throws, fattening White Plains’ lead to 17-7.

Tucker, who had eight points and hauled in a game-best 12 rebounds, reaped the rewards of the increased physical style. In a game of this magnitude, his ultra-long frame was needed to bang in the post.

“I just had to look back at the Mount Vernon game, which called for me to be more aggressive today," Tucker said.

 "We just had to get aggressive and stay focused on the task. After (the Mount Vernon loss), we just came in ready. The next day in practice, we were real serious. There was no laughing. Nobody was joking around.”

Fitting, since White Plains (7-1) is no laughing matter this season.

 Not after rectifying its glaring issue, interior toughness, with Saturday’s workmanlike performance.

Ethan Ryan sparked the Indians off the bench in the first half, drilling a pivotal 3-pointer.

Chris Esernio, a 6-foot-5 forward, added six rebounds. Martinez chimed in with six boards, supplementing his game-high 17 points in 25 minutes.

The game was the most anticipated and intriguing matchup of the third annual Hoops For A Cure, benefitting the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

The event was founded and orchestrated by Saunders head coach Anthony Nicodemo.

Nicodemo’s Saunders squad defeated Dobbs Ferry, 73-60, prior to White Plains’ win.

 Dijon Gonzalez bagged MVP honors, turning in a 26-point, three-steal, and six board performance.

Gonzalez shot  an efficient 9-for-17, spearheading a 29-for-57 (50.9 percent) offensive output. Sophomore Derek Felder added 13 points and seven rebounds.

Dan Riefenhauser paced Dobbs Ferry with 20 points.

 Riefenhauser added 11 rebounds and dished out four assists.