NEW PALTZ, N.Y.— Following a 59-54 loss to Section 9’s Millbrook in the Class C regional semifinals, coach Henry Sassone was disappointed his North Salem Tigers couldn’t make it further in the state tournament, but at the same time he was proud of what his Tigers accomplished and is already looking ahead to next season.
The Section 1 champions have reason for optimism as they only graduate four players and return 13, including three starters.
North Salem held a 46-44 lead after a Ryan Donovan 3-pointer midway through the fourth quarter. But the Blazers answered with a three and a steal at mid-court which translated into a layup to give them a 49-46 edge on March 7 at SUNY New Paltz.
“We were giving them open looks,” Sassone said. “They were missing those open looks in the third quarter. Our triangle (defense) was only going to work for a certain amount of time. It got us back into the game. We were up but we couldn’t convert. Their 3-2 zone stifled us tonight.”
John Martabano kicked out a pass to Donovan in the corner and he hit a deep two but Millbrook responded again with a three on the other end.
Millbrook’s Shane Sinon hit back-to-back corner threes to extend his team’s lead to 55-48 in the back-and-forth affair which saw the lead change hands a number of times.
Every time North Salem took a lead, Millbrook stormed back to seize the momentum.
“I think we kind of hung our heads a little bit,” Sassone said. “But they were a good team. I think they’ll represent this region well.”
North Salem mounted one last surge. Senior Miles D’Alessandro swiped the ball and converted to cut the deficit to 57-54 with just eight seconds left. But the Tigers were unable to get any closer as the Blazers converted two free throws on the other end to seal the win.
The Tigers took a five-point lead late in the third quarter. Martabano started the run with a basket. D’Alessandro converted a three-point play and he then hit 1 of 2 free throws to give them a 39-34 advantage. Millbrook scored on the other end to make it 39-36 Tigers after three.
“We battled, but we just didn’t get it done,” said Sassone, who has 399 career wins.
North Salem was unable to stop Millbrook’s Humberto Cabrera, who finished with a game-high 28 points.
D’Alessandro led North Salem with a team-high 19 points, while Martabano netted 16 points.
Ryan Donovan added seven points while Chris Alterio had six points. Timmy Outhouse played a vital role on the boards for the Tigers.
Despite the loss, North Salem finished with a 17-7 record and won its first section title since 2008.
“It was an incredible season,” Sassone said. “If you would have said to me in November that we’d be playing in New Paltz for the right to go to Long Island (to the regional final) for a right to represent this region, I would have said you’re crazy.”