As important as a good start can be in basketball, how a team finishes can often be the difference maker. On Jan. 24, Rye’s exceptional play down the stretch helped the Garnets squeak past league foe Eastchester, earning a 59-52 win in a game that demonstrated just how quickly momentum can shift.
Despite jumping out to a commanding 10-0 lead in the early minutes of the first quarter, the Garnets lost focus and allowed the sharp-shooting Eagles to climb back into the game. Utilizing defensive pressure and crisp passing, Eastchester turned the tide, pressuring the Garnets into making mistakes and passing to find open looks at the basket. After a second quarter which saw the Eagles outscore their hosts by 14 points, Eastchester headed into halftime with a solid 34-27 lead.
“We weren’t closing out on their shooters and they move the ball exceptionally well,” Rye head coach John Aguilar said. “After a great start I think we lost a little focus, we became rattled and undisciplined on defense.”
Eastchester maintained momentum for much of the third quarter, extending their lead to 11 points before Aguilar looked to his bench for answers. The move paid off, as the energy from the reserves neutralized Eastchester’s offense and helped the Garnets climb back into the game.
“We pulled three starters and I thought our bench came in and just brought a different level of intensity,” Aguilar said. “That was a real change in the game, and the bench really helped to jumpstart the team, and that was definitely encouraging.”
Quinn Kelly led all scorers with 27 points, while fellow starter Matt Tepedino chipped in 17 of his own. Eastchester was paced by guard Anthony LeStrange, who had 16 points.
At 11-4 on the year, Eastchester will look to bounce back on Jan. 30 when they take on another league foe in Pelham.
Rye (11-3) has three straight league contests coming up against Pelham, Harrison and Byram Hills. The Bobcats and Pelicans are already responsible for two of the losses on Rye’s record.
Pelham topped the Garnets 56-55 on Jan. 4 and Byram Hills handed Rye a 41-34 loss on Jan. 10.
“League games are always so difficult because teams know each other’s tendencies,” Aguilar said. “Pelham already beat us at their place, so we know it’s going to be a battle.”