NORTH SALEM, N.Y.— This was not the result they were hoping for as the North Salem boys varsity basketball team squared off against visiting John Jay on Feb. 10.
The Tigers celebrated senior night with a pre-game ceremony honoring their seniors.
After the festivities were over, however, the fun atmosphere quickly disappeared as John Jay-Cross River opened up a 14-1 lead and never looked back.
North Salem rallied back in the second half, but the Tigers couldn’t climb all the way back as John Jay wrapped up a 60-49 victory.
For the seniors on the roster, it was a disappointing finish to what should have been a special night. Senior captain Miles D’Alessandro has been on varsity for four years, and he admits it was not a night to remember. Luckily the Tigers will have another home game in the playoffs when it really counts to rewrite a happy ending.
“Not one of our best games. We’ve been playing better on the year, but we just were not ready,” D’Alessandro said. “I don’t know why that was, but we’ll get back to work and get ready for the next one. We turned it on in the second half and played better, but the first half we just came out flat.”
John Jay started the game by hitting three-straight 3-pointers for a 9-0 lead. By the end of the first quarter it was an 18-point lead for the Indians at 21-3. Chris Alterio and Geordan Mallas each hit a three to give the Tigers hope, but the lead was up to 33-13 at halftime.
North Salem won the third quarter, outscoring John Jay 13-9, but every time the Tigers tried to make a run John Jay would answer.
With the loss, North Salem fell to 13-5 overall on the year. The Tigers, who clinched a share of the league title with Putnam Valley after a 60-52 win over Pawling on Feb. 6, have a chance to make some noise in the playoffs. But they will have to play better than they did against John Jay according to coach Henry Sassone. He hopes the end result against John Jay will be a wake-up call into the postseason.
“We came out with no energy. I don’t know why that was, but you have to be ready to play,” Sassone said. “We didn’t get it done defensively, we didn’t react and they killed us on the boards. They’re a Class A school, a little bigger, but we just have to play better. It doesn’t feel like an 11-point loss, more like a 25-point loss. Not that any loss is good, but at this point in the season moving into sectionals, I think this will get their attention.”
The Tigers’ offense came alive in the fourth quarter as they scored 23 points, but it was too little too late to overcome that slow start.
Ryan Donovan had the hot hand and finished with 13 points to lead the way. Alterio was right behind with 12 points, and D’Alessandro was also in double figures with 10 points. John Martabano had five points, Timmy Outhouse had four points, while Mallas finished with three and Bryan Gomez scored two points to round out the scoring.
A big difference in the game was the result on the boards as John Jay out-rebounded the Tigers 38-19 overall, and on the offensive glass it was the Indians winning that battle 15-4 for a number of second-chance opportunities.
For D’Alessandro, after four years on the court with the varsity team, sectionals will be a chance for the Tigers to close out the season with a happy ending when it really counts the most.
“I didn’t really think about it much because we still have a few more home games left here,” D’Alessandro said of playing his final home games at North Salem. “This court means a lot to me A lot of great memories, but the important thing is the sectionals and how we finish.”
The Section 1 tournament gets under way this week as the Tigers try to earn a trip to compete at the Westchester County Center for the Class C semifinals and championship game.