Saturday, August 2, 2014

Buoyed By Defense, Hudson Valley Trounces Central

During the days leading to the 2014 BCANY tournament, Hudson Valley coach Bill Thom touched on Tom Capuano's deadeye shooting and ability to defend both guard spots.

During Hudson Valley's 74-62 win over Central, it was the Iona Prep combo guard's suffocating defense that catalyzed the Section 1 area squad.

Thoroughly blanketing the backcourt, Capuano's persistent hounding and harassment overcame Hudson Valley's jittery offensive start.

Applying straitjacket coverage on Central's hot-handed Jordan Roland, a George Washington-commit who averaged 28 PPG in the New York State playoffs, Hudson Valley coasted. 

The 5-foot-11 Capuano used his strength to force Roland off screens.

He forced him into a pair of errant, off-balanced shots in the second half. After Roland dropped 10 first half points with relative ease, Capuano prevented the 6-foot-1, 165-pound guard from creating space.

"The first half we were just breaking in, kind of getting the chemistry going," said Luke McLaughlin, one of two returning players from last year's silver medal squad.

"By the second half, we got used to the feel of the game. We ducked in and I thought we played a great game in the second half. We should play like that for the rest of the tournament and hopefully we will. I think Tom (Capuano) did a great job on (Roland). Everyone else obviously did a great job on him. Roland's a great player. I think defensively, that was our game plan. Try to control him and let the role players--if we're going to lose, let them kill us. Obviously that game plan worked. (Roland) played pretty well but I think we contained him enough, so we got the 'W.'"

Hudson Valley stormed out of an early offensive rut.

McLaughlin got a friendly role on a 15-foot jumper.

Andrew Groll, a 6-foot-7 forward/center, then deflected a pass that led to Connor McGuiness drawing a foul and knocking back two free throws.

Spring Valley's McGill buried a pull-up jumper and Salim Green (RCDS) got loose for a fast break layin, supplying Hudson Valley with a 35-20 lead with 1:16 remaining in the first half.

"All we have to do is try to be as unselfish as possible because we have kids that can make plays from 1-12," said McLaughlin.

"Like coach said, 1-12 can be all scholarship players. Hopefully we can mesh that together and keep getting these Ws."

The augmented upfront manpower paid immediate dividends, with 6-foot-9 Jon Nwankwo and Groll combining to snare 22 rebounds.

Nwankwo has interest from Minnesota, Tennessee, Stanford, and countless others. In the tournament opener, he was saddled with four fouls.

And so McGill, the poster boy for House of Sports Elite on the AAU circuit, took leadership matters into his own hands.

The 6-foot-1 guard, who plans on visiting Quinnipiac and Northeastern during the ensuing months, engineered the breakneck rim-to-rim game.

McGill blurred up court and hit Groll for an astonishingly open layup.

He got free and converted Capuano's dish into an easy point-blank bucket, jacking the lead up to 18.

Switching to a man-to-man defense, converting steals and key stops into run outs, Hudson Valley continued to eat.

McGill drove in from the left and unleashed a filthy up-and-under bucket while drawing contact. The senior converted the 3-point play, supplying an insurmountable 58-43 lead.

Notre Dame-commit Matt Ryan, who hadn't seen live action since December, announced his presence with an NBA 3-pointer during the first play of the game. Ryan (10 points), trying to rediscover his stroke while kicking residual rust from the layoff, banged a deep trey to extend Hudson Valley's lead to 66-43.

Central had its opportunities. Roland, the Class B/NYS Player of the Year as a junior, drilled a high-arching jumper and Henninger's Romero Collier pocketed a straight-away 3-pointer, slicing the deficit down to 48-39.

Capuano, the Hastings native and certifiable defensive pest, countered with a long three.

Woeful free throw shooting kept HV from running away with it. Thom's club shot an arctic 17-for-32 from charity.

"We should build open our mistakes," said McLaughlin.

"Free throws, boards, we have to watch the fouls. We have to adjust to the game. I think from here on out, we'll be more comfortable playing with each other and I think we'll definitely be successful. Hopefully we'll get the Gold."