YORKTOWN, N.Y. – Yorktown High School, amplified by its boisterous student body, the Crop, provided great support for the Huskers on Friday, Dec. 6, when they hosted neighboring Walter Panas in the opening round of the 23rd annual George Budries Boys & Girls Memorial Basketball Tournament.
Yorktown sophomore center Eddie Brucaj said he was a bit nervous playing in his first varsity home opener, but adjusted to the raucous atmosphere quickly.
“After like the first minute I was fine,” said Brucaj, an All-Tournament selection. “I was just going up as hard as I can. If I get fouled, I get fouled. If I miss, fine. I was just playing as hard as I can.”
Brucaj and junior teammate, forward Tony Granitto, were certainly giving all-out effort, as each shared team-high honors in points, garnering 16 apiece, with Brucaj also grabbing 12 rebounds and Granitto adding 11 boards.
“Last year, we were really close, so I guess we just have the chemistry,” Brucaj said of their time playing on the JV team.
The play of Brucaj and Granitto helped the Huskers jump out to a 32-24 lead before Panas rallied for a 70-57 victory.
The Huskers got that lead on a strength of a 19-6 run, to put them up by eight, with 3:14 to go in the second quarter.
“We were sharing the ball really well,” said Yorktown coach Mark Pavella said. “We weren’t fouling at that moment. I thought the foul trouble really hurt us after that. They made a lot of free throws.”
Granitto being a monster on the glass was a big reason for the Huskers’ first-half success.
“Tony was just very aggressive,” Pavella said. “He is our energy guy, so he got 10 rebounds in the first half, I think. That really set the tone early on for us.”
Panas, however, garnered control of the game by answering with a 27-8 run, which put them up 51-40 at the end of the third quarter.
“We let their shooters get loose, they were hitting threes, and I thought we were still fouling a lot. They were getting to the foul line,” Pavella said. “We weren’t keeping guys in front of us, defensively.”
Brucaj attempted to keep Yorktown in it, with a basket pulling the Huskers to within eight of the Panas’ lead, 53-45, early in the fourth quarter.
“I thought we were always in the game because we have shooters on our team and Eddie can obviously finish inside, so we are going to fight to the very end, the last second,” Pavella said.
Brucaj scored almost half of his points, 7, in the final quarter.
“Probably because it was at the end of the game, I saw we were losing our momentum, so I just tried to score as much as I can, to bring our team back in the game,” Brucaj said.
Roni Brucaj (9 points, 5 rebounds), Matt Mahoney (6 points), Antoine Coles (4 points), Jared Faivre (2 points), Sam Pincus (2 points) and Rob Miller (2 points), also earned their way into the Huskers’ box score.
Yorktown finished the tournament a day later in the consolation game, beating visiting Carmel, 68-40, led by Eddie Brucaj (16 points, 6 rebounds), Granitto (10 points, 6 rebounds), Roni Brucaj (10 points, 4 assists), Miller (8 points), Pincus (8 points), Faivre (7 points) and Coles (4 points, 6 assists).
“We didn’t want to go 0-3, so we came out with a lot of energy and overall moved the ball much better today,” Eddie Brucaj said.
Yorktown (1-2) started its season on Dec. 3, nearly rallying from a 42-27 deficit, but fell at Fox Lane, 51-49.
Granitto (14 points, 3 rebounds), Roni Brucaj (11 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists), Eddie Brucaj (6 points, 7 rebounds), and Pincus (6 points, 3 rebounds), led the Huskers in their season opener.