Last night the Blind Brook Boys’ Basketball team faced off against Putnam Valley in an intense matchup at the County Center. Normally the home court for the Westchester Knicks, the NBA Development Team and affiliate of the New York Knicks, the building has served as a mecca of high school basketball and an honor to play in for any team good enough to make it there. For the semifinal game, nervous parents, rowdy students, and basketball gurus filled the stands. The announcers introduced the starting lineups from each team, who did their ritual handshakes and got themselves pumped up for tip-off. The time had come.
Surprisingly, both teams got off to a high-flying start. The first three possessions for each team resulted in baskets, enticing the crowd and getting players hyped up. Putnam Valley three, Bucci layup. Putnam Valley three, DiGiansante pullup. Putnam Valley two, Hudson Powell jumper. After just three minutes, the scoreboard read 11-11 thanks to Alex Feuerstein’s three and DiGiansante’s layup off a great feed from Powell, which tied the game. The Trojans rebounded well on the offensive glass and kept their own with the #1 seed, hanging around, down just 16-13 after the first quarter of play.
To begin the second, Blind Brook immediately gave up a transition bucket after failing to get back in time after missing a shot. The Trojans continued to rebound well offensively but missed a couple putback layups they felt should’ve gone in. Nonetheless, another Powell midrange jumper and Feuerstein steal and layup prompted a Putnam Valley timeout with 5:35 remaining and got the Blind Brook student body hooting and hollering.
Right out of the timeout, the Blue Tigers nailed consecutive threes to go up 24-19, urging Blind Brook to take a timeout of their own. The end of the second half was relatively status quo, it wasn’t until the very last possession of the half that life was really injected into the County Center. Blind Brook found itself down 26-25 with about 20 seconds to go and decided to hold for the last shot. As the clock ticked down, the Trojans swung the ball around the perimeter met by traffic created by the antsy Putnam Valley defenders. Just as it looked like they weren’t going to get a shot off, the ball was whipped over to sophomore Ryan Aiello, standing all alone on the wing behind the arc. In one smooth, breathtaking motion, Aiello executed a perfect catch and shoot, banging the three as the buzzer sounded and the backboard lit up. The entire bench erupted and students went wild in the stands. It was the perfect energizer, firing up the Trojan camp and shifting the momentum into their hands going into the halftime break up 28-25.
Going into the third quarter, the Blue Tigers tied the ballgame with two quick free throws. The scoring again resumed with each team going stride for stride up and down the floor. At the 4:37 mark in the third, ensuing Feuerstein and Bucci threes put the Trojans up 36-30 and got the building bumping with enthusiasm. They finished the third up 37-34. The crowd began to grow restless.
At the start of the fourth, a Putnam Valley three knotted the game at 37. However, who was there to respond? None other than Aiello, who buried back to back big time threes to break the deadlock and give the Trojans a six-point lead. With only a couple minutes remaining, DiGiansante asserted himself, grabbing a strong offensive rebound and going up for the basket plus the foul, flexing and bumping chests with teammates. The free throw was good, and at this point, the Blind Brook student section could be heard from any location in the arena and proudly sang together joyfully. Another DiGiansante layup and some clutch free throw shooting from Bucci iced the game for the Trojans. After a Putnam Valley three in garbage time sealed the game, the Trojans celebrated a hard-earned 55-47 W.
Aiello was the biggest spark off the bench for the Trojans, scoring 11 and coming up absolutely huge for the team when they needed it most. “It felt good,” he said. “I knew my role coming into this game was to try and hit some shots to give us momentum and I think I did that well.”
In their quest for the Golden Ball, the Trojans will face a talented Briarcliff team. Everything they’ve worked for will be laid on the line this Friday, Mar. 2 at 7:30 p.m. at Pace University. One more game is all it will take.