WHITE PLAINS, NY - When you think of Mt. Vernon vs. New Rochelle, you think of one of New York State's greatest rivalries. Mt. Vernon though with its 29 Section 1 championships since 1967 is considered king.
In that same span New Rochelle has just 2. That isn't to say they aren't competitive. They are always good, but never able to get over the hump against their heated rivals. Sunday afternoon gave the Huguenots another chance to knock off their rivals, and even though most have heard how this game ended, with New Rochelle winning, 61-60, in thrilling fashion, there was so much more to this game than meets the eye.
The Huguenots were written off before this season actually began. Their longtime coach Bill Murphy resigned before the season citing a desire to spend more time with his family. The school went on to hire Rasaun "Crabby" Young. A 1993 graduate of New Rochelle, Young was going to be in for a rough year most said, and as the season started most were being proved right.
New Rochelle started the year 9-9, and was considered an afterthought. It was not their year. Most people didn't believe. That is except for Young and his players of course.
"Even when we were down, I stressed we had champions on this team, I believed they would lead us, even when it didn't look good." Young said.
The coach was speaking primarily about seniors Joe Clarke and Khalil Edney. The 2 were the stars of the 2012 Class "AA" New York State football champions. Clarke was a big WR who also played Safety, while Edney was the star QB. Both were expected to instill that sense of winning from the football field, to the basketball court.
Slowly but surely things started to turn around for the Huguenots. After the rough start which included 2 blowout losses to Mt. Vernon, they started to pick up steam. Even so, they were going into the playoffs as the #9 seed. Not exactly the place favorites are, but the team believed they were peaking and were as dangerous as anyone, and according to Clarke, they used others feelings about them as motivation.
"We knew nobody was giving us a chance to do anything. Everyone counted us out, but that was ok because we just used that to our advantage." Clarke said.
They wouldn't play a home game in the playoffs because of their low seed. They traveled to Clarkstown South in Round 1 and defeated them handily. They then had to travel to #1 seed Spring Valley, but they couldn't handle what New Rochelle brought to the table and the Huguenots won comfortably. It was onto the Semifinals against Mahopac, and New Rochelle would have to play without the services of Edmey, who had a sprained ankle and couldn't go. Again no one was giving them a shot, but without Edney, the team found a way to win, scrapping out a tight one. It was onto the championship to face none other than Mt. Vernon.
Young understood the meaning of not just playing Mt. Vernon, but playing them on this stage. 20 years ago to the day, Young was a senior playing on the very same Westchester County Center court against the very same Mt. Vernon Knights, and even though he was named game MVP that day, his team lost. It was a haunting memory, but Sunday gave Young a chance to make right.
Edney would suit up and give it a go, tender ankle and all, but for most of the game it looked bleak. New Rochelle was down double digits for most of the 2nd half and looked like they were going to fall to Mt. Vernon again, but the Huguenots have champions, and champions never quit.
Clarke was able to post up and get in good positions inside, finishing against contact to cut the once 13 point 4th quarter Mt. Vernon lead to just 5 with 2:10 to play. Clarke followed that by getting fouled on a hard drive. He sank both FT's and the deficit was just 3. New Rochelle pressured the ball and forced a traveling violation. Donny Powell would then get fouled with 28.9 left, and even though he only sank 1 of 2 FT's, the deficit was now just 59-57. Stifling defense by the Huguenots caused a charge to be called on Mt. Vernon with 19.7 left, and the warriors who never quit firmly had a shot to win.
New Rochelle held for what looked to be the final shot, but Edney missed a baseline jumper that would've tied it. Miraculously 6'0" guard Derek Dorn was able to fight for the rebound and was fouled,on his putback attempt with 3.7 seconds left. He had 2 FT's and a chance to tie. The first was good, but the 2nd rimmed out. New Rochelle fouled Jalen David with 2.9 seconds left and all hope looked lost at that point. David missed the 1st, but made the 2nd to make it 60-58 with 2.9 seconds left, and from there, well you probably know what happens.
Edney, the star QB, tried to throw an inbounds pass to his WR, Clarke. The ball was intercepted though by Devonte Banner for Mt. Vernon, but instead of holding it, Banner gently lobbed the ball in the air, and the smart thinking Edney caught it and heaved up a desperation 60 footer at the buzzer. It was good and the rest is history.
It wasn't good immediately, but after a discussion between the 3 referees they ultimately decided that the shot left his hands before the clock hit 0 and the Huguenots hadn't won just their 3rd Section 1 championship since 1967, they did it against Mt. ,Vernon, the rivals, the team that always had their number.
Clarke led all scorers with 30 points for New Rochelle, while Edney added 7, but it was a very very big 7. Joshua Doughty led Mt. Vernon with 13, while Brandon Martin chipped in with 11.
The team that no one believed in had done it, and finally after 20 long years, Young the coach could exorcise the demons that Young the player had gone through.
"20 years ago today against Mt. Vernon I hurt a lot. Today was redemption for that. This means so much because of how the kids fought. They never quit, and now they are all champions." a proud Young said.
The moment may never have happened though had Edney not decided to give it a go. The game winning shot gave him the MVP award, and now he and Clarke go down as both State Football champs, and Section 1 basketball champs. The only other New Rochelle player to claim that honor? Baltimore Ravens RB and 2005 grad, Ray Rice. That fact was not lost on the hero after the game.
"It's unheard of to be champions in both basketball and football. I am a part of an elite class and that's something I will always cherish," Edney said.
The shot will go down in history as one of the most remembered shots in New York H.S. basketball history, and for what this team was able to achieve against all odds, they will truly and forever be New Rochelle legends.
Poughkeepsie 56- Byram Hills 47
Poughkeepsie finally won the elusive Gold Ball they have so desired in defeating Byram Hills on Sunday night for the Class "A" championship. Jermar Dancy stood out in every way finishing with 24 points en route to being named MVP.
Defensively the Pioneers held Byram Hills to just 6 points in the all important 3rd quarter that saw Poughkeepsie open up a double digit lead that it would not relinquish.
The defensive intensity was huge for Poughkeepsie to get over the hump and get the Gold Ball it has been trying to get for so long.
"We have been in position to get the Gold Ball a few times but we always fell short. To finally do that and do it on the backs of Jermar and our defense is something I will really enjoy." Poughkeepsie coach Brian Laffin said.
In defeat Byram was led by the 17 points of Jeff Lynch.
It was the Pioneers night to celebrate though as for the first time since 1999, the coveted Gold Ball is heading back up to Poughkeepsie.
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