An inspired fourth quarter of play transformed a three-point deficit into a 52-39 victory for the Rye boys’ basketball team January 30 against Harrison. The Garnets outscored their rivals 22-6 in the final eight minutes at New Rochelle High School, muzzling the Huskies and exacting revenge for a late December loss at the County Center.
Junior captain Brian Pickup led the way with 15 points. Fellow juniors Conor Smith and Chris Twyman also scored in double figures with 13 and 11. Although Rye only scored two in the first quarter, head coach Chris DiCintio said they followed the offensive game plan. The Garnets fed it down low to senior captain Brendan Nagle and kicked it out to the perimeter for good looks. They just could not get the ball to drop through the hoop. The defensive effort was strong, however, and Rye only trailed by five entering the second quarter.
“We had a week to prepare for that game, and the guys were intent on watching film and breaking it down,” said DiCintio. “I reminded them that you never know if this could be your last battle with Harrison. They played determined to make sure the memory of this game was a good one.”
Game film from their previous encounter with the Huskies showed the team that their effort was lackluster. That loss on December 28 dropped Rye’s record to 2-5, but since turning over the calendar the difference in the team has been, in their coach’s words, “night and day”. The Garnets are 6-3 in 2010 and now stand at 8-8 with the Section playoffs fast approaching. Instead of relying on late-game heroics that didn’t pan out in the first half of the season, Rye is now putting teams away. They have won by at least 13 points in five of their last six victories.
DiCintio chalks the renaissance up to three factors. First, the preparation and work in practice is light years from where it began. The Garnets have realized that success in the past means nothing today, and that they aren’t good enough to go out and win without putting in the work. Secondly, Rye lost four starters heading into the season, so it took time to figure out who played best with whom and who was most dangerous coming off the bench. The coaching staff has stuck with the same five starters – Nagle, Pickup, Conor Smith, Twyman, and Tim Lonergan – and eight-man rotation since January. Finally, DiCintio believes his Garnets have stopped playing as individuals. The communication is better and the scoring is more evenly distributed.
DiCintio was also adamant about the play of Lonergan, the point guard whose impact on the game does not appear in the box score.
“Last year he was capable of playing minutes, but was stuck behind our star Matt O’Neill,” said DiCintio. “The two were friends, so instead of sulking he observed Matt from the bench. Well, Tim got his opportunity and has been tremendous in keeping the kids together. He is the glue behind our defensive intensity and I can’t speak highly enough about him despite the fact he only scores four or five points a game.”
It’s impossible to talk about Rye’s turnaround without mentioning Chris Twyman, the player DiCintio calls the Garnets’ most improved. Twyman has scored in double figures in eight consecutive games, and has been lethal from 3-point range. The 6-foot, 4-inch junior has drained 14 shots from downtown in the last five games.
Even when Rye was 2-5, DiCintio felt his team would be a threat in the Section playoffs, which begin after the Garnets close out the season February 9 at Port Chester.
“We have the talent, size, experience, athleticism and firepower necessary to compete in the playoffs,” said the coach. “Whether or not we bring the defensive intensity necessary to win in the Sectionals remains to be seen. However, we’ve shown recently that when we want to focus and prepare we can be a really good defensive club. If we go into the playoffs and play the way we’ve been playing, we’re going to be a very dangerous team.”