Monday, August 4, 2014

Hudson Valley Coasts To BCANY Championship

When Bill Thom inherited his most talented team on paper, one rife with ball-dominant scorers, he knew placing sky-high emphasis on selflessness was essential.

Guys accustomed to scoring 20 PPG had to adapt to taking only 5-6 shots.

First Team All-State players would be called upon to shoot less, create more, and abandon the one-on-one game for the swift passing and frenetic, lungs-burning attack that Thom's system is predicated on.

It would never work unless the team adopted an ego-free mentality, avoiding clashes and disputes over who takes which shots and who gets the rock during crucial transitions.

Never was this more evident Sunday. Hudson Valley nurtured the ball and fed the hot hand. It didn't matter who was taking the shot. If it was a good look and a beneficiary of the angle-to-angle ball movement, that green light flashed.

Iona Prep's Tom Capuano, who entered the championship game averaging 8.3 points, a fifth and sixth option on whom Hudson Valley leaned more for lockup duty, went off.

The 5-foot-11 guard morphed into the mad zone-buster, bagging five 3-pointers en route to a game-high 21 points (8-for-11 FG, 5-7 3FG). Hudson Valley's unparalleled depth and size, pivotal factors throughout the tournament, ultimately bludgeoned Central .

Buoyed by a personal 10-2 run by Notre Dame-commit Matt Ryan (also of Iona Prep), Hudson Valley built an insurmountable second half lead en route to a 103-63 BCANY championship win. The Gold Medal is back in Hudson Valley.

One year after a maddening overtime loss to Adirondack in the Gold medal game, Hudson Valley returned with a loaded up roster, underscored by a massive 6-foot-9 high-major prospect in Jonathon Nwankwo.

While many felt a BCANY championship was a forgone conclusion for a Hudson Valley squad of this star-spangled lineup, employing a harassing press and playing together was pivotal.

"(Central) put that zone on us, so we had to do different things," Capuano said.

"We just wanted to move the ball and stay aggressive and cut on the zone. We wanted to keep the pressure on them and also defensively keep the pressure on them so they couldn't set up in the zone."

Capuano formed a potent 2-on-2 game with Spring Valley's Rickey McGill throughout the tournament. McGill had three steals and seven assists in the championship. A noted ball thief throughout, McGill was pivotal in orchestrating Capuano's shooting spree.

Prior to the championship slaying, Capuano was on the receiving end of McGill's pickpockets and quick dishes up the floor.

Yet on Sunday, McGill envisioned Capuano  firing from downtown.

"I could see (Capuano's eruption) coming because in warmups he was hitting everything," said McGill, who has interest from Drexel, Quinnipiac, Northeastern, Hofstra, Kent State, and Miami-Ohio, amongst others.

"When he first hit his two threes in a row, I knew he was going."

It didn't take long to get Hudson Valley going. An array of volume shooters seized the opportunities with an early surge. 

Ryan bagged a corner jumper to give Hudson Valley a 13-7 edge. Jurzynski capped a quick 7-0 spurt when he rained a 3-pointer.

Capuano, who has NEC, Ivy and Patriot League interest, extended the lead to 23-7,  ripping a transition three without a hint of hesitation.

"We knew we were the better team, so we just had to stay the course of the game," said Ryan, a gold medal draped around his neck.

"We had to wait to go on our run. Every second half of every game we went on a ridiculous run so we were just waiting for that. We just had to stay together and keep our composure, every team was gunning for us because we really were the best team. All the outcomes of every game showed why we were the favorite."

In five BCANY games, Hudson Valley overwhelmed their in-state foes with a staggering 33-point average margin of victory.

Jonathon Nwankwo, who abused Nassau to the tune of 19 points, 11 rebounds, and three blocks, was integral.

Manipulating shots and altering Adirondack's forays to the rim, Nwankwo piled up four blocked shots in the first 10 minutes of a 97-73 semifinal thrashing.

The 6-foot-9, 240-pound big has been inundated with a stockpile of offers. Nwankwo is receiving the most consistent interest from Minnesota, Tennessee, Seton Hall, Fordham and Rice. He had 12 points in 18 minutes during the throttling of Central in the championship.

Hudson Valley guard Salim Green, an Ivy League target whose role as a creative, off-the-bounce scorer increased as the games got bigger, scored 11. Green canned a trio of treys, supplementing Capuano and Ryan with the perimeter game.

Jurzynski, a versatile threat, added 11 points. Gambari added 11 points on 5-for-8 shooting.

In the 97-73 semifinal win over Adirondack, it was returning starter Luke McLaughlin who embodied the senior leadership role. Capitalizing on every last possession, McLaughlin shot a scalding 17-for-19 from the free throw line.

Since he drew a foul on a two-handed fast break sledgehammer attempt, adrenaline spiked through the 6-foot-6 McLaughlin's veins.

"Luke's first three games in pool play were very average, then he went off in the semifinal," Thom said. "That's the luxury of this team. Different guys are stepping up and taking over at different times."

After scoring 10 first-half points while keeping the heat on Hudson Valley during the tournament-opener, 6-foot-1 guard Jordan Roland was rendered a non-factor.

The George Washington-commit, who dropped 35 points and stormed Central back from an 11-point deficit during a 87-78 semifinal victory, was held in check.

Central faltered during the final eight minutes of the first half, despite inspirational play from Utica Proctor's Tyvon Reed.

"Depth was very key," Capuano said.

"Because we could keep replacing guys, keep them fresh. While they're getting tired going up and down, we can keep the pressure on and keep replacing and eventually tire them out like we did."

Thom, who won his second BCANY championship in three years, put it in perspective.

"12 great kids that wanted to play for each other," Thom said.

"It was selfless basketball. They didn't care who was in it, who was doing it."