Saturday, February 1, 2014

High-Scoring Sophomore Guard Lifts Yorktown With 31-Point Eruption

As he’s done at a furious rate the past three games, Luis Cartagena shredded through defenders, stuck loud 3-pointers, and slithered his way to the rim, finishing and drawing fouls.  

The result? 

An electrifying 31-point scoring spree which propelled the Huskers to a signature 59-56 victory over Peekskill.

Perennially tough Peekskill, bolstered by the return of longtime head coach Lou Panzanaro, couldn’t seem to neutralize the suddenly possessed 5-foot-10 sophomore southpaw.

 Cartagena's 31 points and 10 rebounds were ultimately the overwhelming factor. 

The springy hops, now displayed by the freshly-minted go-to-guy, have paid immediate dividends.

Weeks after pushing Putnam Valley for 28 minutes but faltering late, Yorktown finally got the signature victory it had been hounding all season.

 The Huskers spoke all summer and pre-season about resuscitating an ailing program. A nucleus of veterans and an around-the-clock basketball focus vowed to rectify woes of the past

The collective desire to build  a basketball culture and garner visibility for a program that hasn't been relevant in four years spread through the locker room like a contagious plague. Traces of doubt never set in.

The Huskers talked about potential and maximizing that potential by empowering a deep, guard-laden roster. 

On Friday, the Huskers pulled of a thrilling grinder, easily the biggest win in recent memory.

“It was the greatest feeling in the world as a coach, to see players with ear-to-ear smiles on their faces,” said Huskers head coach Chris Caputi.

“They earned this win tonight, in every sense of the word. The boys put together an unbelievable effort in 32 minutes and stayed the course. We knew it was going to be tough, but we also knew it was possible. They said at halftime, “we are winning this game.”

Over the ensuing 16 minutes, the determined core's words proved prophetic.

Cartagena, who had 20 second half points, scored 12 in the fourth quarter. He buried 4-of-5 free throws, providing the calm in the midst of mounting pressure.

The kid who began the year as purely a slasher has opened up a dependable deep jumper. 

The Huskers avenged a putrid 85-58 loss on Jan.9, when Peekskill spread the ball around and featured five double-digit scorers. 

"Luis is just a freak of nature," said senior forward Ricky Corrado.

"He's got talent and athleticism. He's starting to blossoming and of course it is helping us during this stretch."
Despite recent bouts of in-house turmoil, the Red Devils vowed to increase the focus on team effort. 

With the mass exodus of ballers leaving Peekskill, and detractors calling for the legendary Panzanaro's job, the Red Devils were set on a new beginning in 2014.

 That rejuvenation has suddenly spread to Yorktown, which has rolled off three consecutive victories to quell a mid-season funk.

The Huskers, so listless and lackluster during the aforementioned free-fall, have regained the swagger they entered the season with. Now, they are playing with a purpose.

Now, they are hell-bent on proving they belong.

Cartagena is averaging 25.3 points the past three games. His tear began against Hastings, as Yorktown overcame a subpar first half against a reeling Yellow Jackets team starving for a win.

Cartagena put the team on his shoulders in that one, scoring 29 points and refusing to wilt before an energetic crowd at the Cochrane Gym.

The porous defense that plagued Yorktown through three quarters stopped. The desire to halt a surprising and infuriating losing streak and ultimately right the ship set in.

Closing the deal was sophomore point guard Nick DeGennaro, who drilled a long straight-away 3-pointer to end the losing streak and subsequently puncture Hastings' heart.

Against Peekskill, Caputi got production all across the boards.

Anthony Coutsouros was immense, scoring 10 points off the bench.

In a game of this magnitude, before a jam-packed crowd and against a beefed up frontline, Coutsouros was active on the glass. The seasoned 6-foot-5 senior  helped prevent the Red Devils from powering up, keeping the rim locked. Mason Dyslin, another 6-foot-5 forward, added six points.

The key for the Huskers was sustaining the focus for 32 minutes. That meant no more droughts, no more lackadaisical phases, no mental gaffes.

It also entailed subscribing to the steadfast, one-game-at-a-time mantra preached by all veteran teams. Nobody was checking the rearview mirror or even the blind spot.

“The boys decided not to let the first 3/4ths of the season affect them,” Caputi explained.

“They decided as a team to stand up and be men and finish the season strong—they are believing in each other.”

There is certainly belief in Cartagena, who has assumed the scoring mantle.

“Luis is learning how to let the game come to him,” said Caputi.

 “He plays the game to make sure he gets the best of the other team at all times. He believes in himself as a player. The rest of his teammates believe in his abilities as well and they are running through him. He has sparked us in all three of our last wins.”

The way Cartagena was carved into nooks and crannies of Peekskill’s defense, the way the he is able to rip off five points in 25 seconds (he's lethal for his spurt-ability), it all makes for a promising future.

Yorktown is more concerned about the present.

With a three-game win streak and a stockpile of losses quickly forgotten, Yorktown has shifted its gaze to Nanuet and the excitement that a potential first round upset would generate.