Before losing to top-seeded Kennedy 72-56 in the Class A Section quarterfinals February 22, the No. 9 Rye boys’ basketball team went on the road February 18 and defeated eighth-seeded Roosevelt with a dramatic fourth-quarter comeback.
Senior captain Conor Smith splashed a game-winning corner 3-pointer with 5.4 seconds left in the game, and the Garnets escaped Yonkers High School with a 56-54 victory over the Indians.
“I had a feeling the extra pass would be made and the ball would end up in my hands,” said Smith of Rye’s exhilarating final possession. “We’ve been playing team ball as of late, and I knew it was going in as soon as I released it. I even told my friend during the week – jokingly – that I’d hit the game-winner!”
The Garnets trailed by as many as nine points in the final quarter thanks to a 3-point barrage from Roosevelt, but clawed back without ever losing composure or diverting from the game plan. Chris Twyman, a senior, blocked a potential game-tying lay-up with less than a second remaining to send Rye to the quarterfinals.
Down 51-43 with 3:40 remaining, Smith dished it to sophomore Max Twyman for two and shifted the momentum in favor of Rye. Senior captain Brian Pickup then grabbed a defensive board, one of his eight in the game, and took it to the basket for a bucket. Chris Twyman cut Roosevelt’s lead to 51-49 on a pair of free throws, but the Indians countered with their fifth 3-pointer in ten minutes. It would be the last time they scored.
After trading missed shots and turnovers, Pickup grabbed a Smith miss and put it up and in for two of his 20 points. The Garnets then forced a backcourt violation, and called a timeout with 46 seconds left.
“We played under control, bent, but didn’t break, and stuck to the plan,” said Rye head coach Chris DiCintion. “Roosevelt got comfortable in the third quarter, but we did some things to confuse them in the fourth.”
On Rye’s ensuing possession, Max Twyman had a great look at a 3-pointer, but the ball somehow rimmed out. Smith was there for the offensive rebound, however, and was fouled. Both free throws hit the front rim, backboard, and then fell into the bucket, cutting the lead to 54-53 with just over 30 seconds to go.
Smith’s heroics were far from over. He stole the ball on the next possession, and flicked it backwards over his head to Kamal Logue while falling out of bounds on the Roosevelt baseline. Rye called timeout to set up their final offensive play. With 21 seconds on the clock, the Garnets inbounded the ball low to Pickup, who attempted to attack the rim. The senior passed out of the double team and into the right corner. Rye moved the ball around the perimeter, ultimately making the extra pass to Smith in the left corner, who calmly squared up, released, and hit nothing but the bottom of the net.
“There’s always a chance in the playoffs,” said Smith, who led with 22 points. “We played big when we had to.”
— Jim Byrne