Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Putnam Valley's Poise Survives Husker Scare

                                    Ray Gallagher Photo

An upset was brewing, but Putnam Valley's fleet of seasoned seniors wouldn't wilt.

The Tigers heard Yorktown's forceful footsteps.

They heard them with 6:51 remaining in the third quarter, as Mason Dyslin's traditional 3-point play gave the Huskers a 42-41 edge.

The Tigers heard the growling belly of an upset-starved Yorktown beast with 1:13 left in the third. That's when Matt Broder drained a long 3-pointer, one he might as well have shot from Commerce Street, to put Yorktown ahead, 38-37.
Through senior poise and a flair for crunch time, however, Putnam Valley gutted out a wild 56-50 victory.

Yorktown—glaringly different from the Yorktown team the Tigers dismantled, 53-36, at the County Center two weeks ago—pushed Putnam Valley until the final 60 seconds.

The Tigers escaped the hostile Husker home court unscathed. Clutch plays on both sides of the court, when they mattered most, ignited the Valley rally.

“We just try to stay composed, composure really is a big part of our success,” said Kevin Fitzsimmons, whose transition layup in the final 36.8 seconds supplied a four-point Tigers lead and much-needed breathing room.

“We can’t let anybody get into our head. Coach (Mike) McDonnell told us at halftime that we have to pick it up, we have to stay composed over the next 16 minutes. As a team, we have a target on our backs."

The Fitzsimmons bucket was the immediate product of Jelani Bell-Isaac's pulsating block.

Mere milliseconds following Bell-Isaac's swat, guard Ryan Basso (12 points) recovered the rock and fed a streaking Fitzsimmons.

"Jelani's defense is always there for us," Fitzsimmons said. "Basso hit me down court and we were able to get a good play out of it. It starts with defense."

It was a hustle play, a hustle bucket.  It was a final jab to a foe which scratched, clawed, and surprised the snot out of the Tigers.

The Huskers were paced by Luis Cartagena's 13 points. Anthony Coutsouros added eight points. Ricky Corrado chimed in with seven.

The major thorn in Yorktown’s side was from Zach Coleman’s shooting hand.

Coleman, a 6-foot-2 senior, gave an efficient account of himself. He scored a game-high 21 points, hitting 11-of-12 free throws.

 Permeating the driving lanes, drilling pull-up jumpers, throwing shot fakes and creating seams around the basket, Coleman was unflappable.

Every time Yorktown’s momentum rolled, Coleman countered with a pivotal jumper or surge to the rim. 

 “We knew this was going to be a huge game, we knew Yorktown was going to pack the seats,” Coleman said.

“With us, we’ve played together for so long that we all have an understanding of each other’s game. We can all really rely on each other."

How reliable was Basso?

The heady point guard carved into the lane for a 51-50 Tigers lead with 2:53 remaining.

 The prospect of a monumental upset cranked up THE CROP, Yorktown’s loyal and jovial student cheering section.

It also cranked up Putnam Valley’s defense, inducing storming pressure during the final quarter.

Beyond Coleman and Basso, Fitzsimmons and Bell-Isaac added nine points and eight, respectively.
Yorktown instilled its aggression from the jump ball.

Buoyed by the commitment to dishing the extra pass, the Huskers reeled off a 12-4 spurt.

Cartagena, a high-octane sophomore guard, kick-started it with a 3-pointer, a quick steal and fast break layup.  

Junior Nick Delbene bagged a corner 3-pointer, capping off the run.

Yorktown sustained its lead for the remainder of the half, albeit a  power outage and shaky possessions down the stretch ultimately hampered the Huskers.

Yorktown forward Anthony Coutsouros was pivotal during crucial transitions, most notably with a 3-pointer that knotted it at 35-35.

Coutsouros' shot, through hand-in-the-grill pressure, got THE CROP revved.

 Always full throttle, Yorktown coach Chris Caputi implored THE CROP to sustain the sky-high decibel levels.

“We knew this was going to be a great place to play,” Coleman said.

 “We know that people are aiming for us. It gives us motivation to get better. Nobody knew about Putnam Valley basketball until we went 18-3 last year. We have a target on our head. We want it that way.”