Mt. Vernir Nazir Davis (22) hits a 3-point overtime hit against Suffern in the Boys’ AA class semifinal at the Westchester County Center in White Plains on March 6, 2020. Mt. Vernon won 56-50 in overtime . (Photo: Frank Becerra Jr./The Journal News)
WHITE PLAINS – In a season that has been defined by an unusual amount of drama and disappointment for Mount Vernon, this may have been an appropriate finish.
Even during the Friday evening victory at the County Center, the Knights were huddled in the stairwell of the old arena, remembering the full pass and fired on the buzzer that would have sent Suffern – and not them – in final.
“I was in the middle of the field,” said senior Irvin Patrick about the play. “I saw the ball pass over my head and I saw the man open. After that, it was just … pray.”
Not only were Mount Vernon’s prayers answered, but also his wishes in a class AA semifinal thriller. The Knights survived this late scare, then won 56-50 in overtime to extend their record streak of Section 1 championship games to 22.
They will play in their usual time slot at noon Sunday for the Golden Ball.
“No matter how we got here, we got here,” said Patrick. “Now we have a chance to win our section. That’s good. That’s what we’re working for, to send the seniors with gold.”
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Mount Vernon, who squandered a seven-point lead in the second period, finally took control in overtime behind the shot of Patrick and his compatriot Nazir Davis. The team’s zone defense also limited the passing lanes to Suffern star Clevmer Lubin, who was the dominant player on the regularization field and even led his gendarmes in the fourth quarter.
With the match tied for 48 after a 3-point pointer by Patrick, each team forced a jump ball in the final seconds to regain possession. Suffern had the ball under Mount Vernon’s basket with 2.7 seconds remaining and it was at this point that quarterback and baseball star Kasey Sullivan pulled a short court pass to the block left.
Sullivan’s pass was sent to Jo’el Emanuel, a junior with long arms, who jumped to catch him and turned to shoot. The ball was tipped by Orlando Dawkins of Mount Vernon and never made it to the edge.
“I thought we had this layup at the end,” said Suffern coach Scott Wright.
“It’s so difficult to get here,” added Wright after leading his unannounced schedule to the second straight quarter-final. “We had to fight and scratch and scratch this evening. We made them work overtime. It will be difficult.”
Mt. Vernon’s Troy Hupstead (30) leads to basket against Suffern in the Boys’ AA class semifinal at the Westchester County Center in White Plains on March 6, 2020. Mt. Vernon won 56-50 in overtime. (Photo: Frank Becerra Jr./The Journal News)
Wright’s defenses had confused Mount Vernon and left the star Troy Hupstead no leeway. The Knights turned to junior Xavier Riullano, who scored a 15-point high, mostly due to four three-pointers.
For Riullano, a transfer from Trinity Catholic to Stanford, this continued what was a solid post-season race. It all started when coach Bob Cimmino removed him from starting lineup in the first run.
“The first game in the playoffs was our senior night, so Xavier didn’t start then,” said Cimmino. “He played so well that he will never start again. The three playoff games were his best games of the year.”
And Mount Vernon never needed him more than Friday night.
“I had the impression that at the start of the match they would box and help Troy with everything,” said Riullano. “We needed someone to act as a marker to release our attack. I felt like I had to do it today.”
Player of the match
Clevmer Lubin, Suffern. The 6 foot 3 inch junior gave the Knights everything they could handle in painting with his strength and athleticism. He finished with 28 points and 16 rebounds in the loss.
Lubin, a soccer star, was scheduled to visit Rutgers on Saturday and already has scholarship offers from UConn, UMass, Army and Buffalo.
Mount Vernon (16-9) – In addition to Riullano’s 15 points, Patrick added 10 points, eight rebounds and four assists. Dawkins had six points and Davis added five, but all of his points came in overtime.
Suffern (19-4) – Jaden Edozie had seven points, four rebounds and four assists. Emanuel added six points and Sullivan and Aidan Anderson each had four rebounds and three assists. … Constables, who were the best defense in Section 1 all season, limited Hupstead to six points and four rebounds.
Mount Vernon will play number 2 Greeley at 12 p.m. Sunday at the County Center for the championship. The Knights have won the last three AA titles, but lost earlier this season to Greeley, 62-45.
Josh Thomson is editor of local sports for The Journal News and Poughkeepsie Journal. He can be reached by email at [email protected], on Twitter at @lohudinsiderand on Instagram at @lohudinsider.
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