Friday, December 5, 2014

Bench, Guard Play Lifts Yorktown Past Panas In Opener

All it took was a few vital defensive stops and an instant spark off the bench.

Both of these factors helped Yorktown kill off an early case of season-opener jitters.

With a high-low game and a knack for kicking in that extra pass, the Huskers reeled off a game-altering 15-4 first half surge, en route to a convincing season-opening 51-37 mauling of border town rival Walter Panas.

The Huskers, which have struggled mightily the past few seasons and haven't eclipsed six wins since the 2010-11 campaign, awoke in the second quarter.

Junior forward Jesse Bambach supplied a major spark off the bench.

Bambach had eight hustle points, playing with a level of quick-hit adrenaline that soon became contagious.

 The floppy-haired scrapper knocked in a banker and junior off guard Trevor Bocian bucketed a nifty floater as Yorktown capped a 10-2 run.

The bench was the spark that started the fire.

 It spread rapidly into the Huskers' backcourt.

Point guard Nick DeGennaro, who scored a team-best 18 points, quarterbacked the offense while simultaneously piloting a perimeter assault.

It helped turn an early battle into an insurmountable 20-point lead by the third quarter.

DeGennaro took game management matters into his own hands, whipping a needle-threading pass to Nick Delbene on the break for a layin and a 22-14 lead.

DeGennaro then pocketed a deep 3-pointer, as the Huskers suddenly went from a four-point deficit to an 11-point lead.

The crafty junior fed a streaking Mason Dyslin for an easy bucket, as the Huskers closed out the first half on a wild 15-4 streak.

They kick-started the third quarter with eight unanswered points.

 With high-rising senior Mike Evans (20 points) sidelined with early foul trouble, Panas' offense faltered.

Several shots rimmed in and out. Point blank shots and put-backs fell off the mark, as the drought spread into the third quarter.

Yorktown took advantage, as senior guard Mike Nardone buried back-to-back 3-pointers that built a 17-point cushion.

"We believe in each other so we always make the extra pass," DeGennaro said.

 "We were moving the ball inside first and then outside second, we fed off of that. We knew we could come out with a bang. Jesse was unbelievable. He really got us started."

Evans, one of just two returning veterans who played significant minutes on last season's Tim McCauley-fueled Section 1 championship squad, scored eight first quarter points. He put the team on his shoulders offensively, the lone steady source in an irregular team performance.

A threat on both sides of the court, Evans provided rugged interior defense and three clean blocks. He hit a pair of free throws that pulled Panas to within nine.

While Evans' engine and an open 3-pointer from Justin Lee invigorated Panas, the momentum was drained when Evans was whistled for a charge.

Yorktown kept its foot on the Panthers' throat, as Bambach corralled a key offensive rebound and the 6-foot-7 Dyslin buried an elbow jumper to crank Yorktown's lead back up to 41-29.

"Coach (Kevin Downes) just told us, 'keep our emotions high and don't let them override your mind," said Bambach.

"I have to give it up for my teammates. They always have confidence in me all the way through. I couldn't have done it tonight without Glen (O'Loughlin) and Mason. They've worked me every day in practice and they never stop pushing me."

Downes, who places staunch emphasis on sustained defensive relentlessness and thorough board work, got to immediate work after inheriting the head coaching position in June.

Molding a young core through open gyms and the House of Sports summer league helped establish chemistry for the Huskers.

Yorktown lost nearly 50 percent of its scoring from the previous season, with bullish 6-foot-1 forward Ricky Corrado graduating and hard-driving lefty guard Luis Cartagena transferring to White Plains.

All off-season, DeGennaro talked about changing the program culture and sustaining County Center aspirations.

The handles-happy guard, strictly a facilitator last season, made a statement with a promising all-around performance and a knack for dishing to the cutter at the opportune time.

"We know this has to be our time right now," DeGennaro said.

 "We struggled the last two years and it feels good to come out and have  good win. Panas is probably the biggest rival we know."