Sullivan West Punctuates Senior Night With An Edgy Win Against Talented Livingston Manor In Preview Of Two Teams Bound For Their Respective Section IX Tourney Sojourns.
Sullivan West 60, Livingston Manor 56
By RICHARD A. ROSS
LAKE HUNTINGTON, NY- Outside it was bitterly cold and uncharacteristically clear.
But inside it was raining Cats and Dawgs (again).
For the second time this season the Class D Livingston Manor Wildcats and the Sullivan West Bulldogs locked up in a tenacious encounter.
And for the second time, Sullivan West won a hard-fought clash on the hardwood, this time by staving off a late surge by Manor (11-6) which held a brief lead in the game’s waning minutes.
A few key turnovers and fouls would spell the difference as the Dawgs got to the line late to marshal the points that would nail down the non-league win.
In the regular season finale for both squads now en route to their respective Section IX tournament quests, these two fine teams went at each other with all the fervor of a playoff encounter.
For the packed-house crowd replete with a rabid and voracious Dawg Pound entourage on hand, this game would hopefully offer a preview of the kind of basketball each team is capable of playing that could augur advancing in the coming gauntlet of the Sectionals.
But first and foremost it was the Bulldogs’s senior night. And to that end, each of the team’s eight elder statesmen was called to center court to pose with their family members for photos that will freeze this special rite of passage for time immemorial.
Seniors Jiron Kevii, Richard Shevak, Ronj Padu, Noah Bauer, Hanrii Padu, Andrew Stabbert, Douglas Farrell and Mark Castro formed the nucleus of the 11-7 Bulldogs squad which is heading back to sectionals, a redemptive surge following last year’s disappointing season.
For Manor, the Division VI champions, this year’s squad is the best since 2012, the year of that iconic trip to Glens Falls. That memorable season the Wildcats coached by savvy Charlie Hicks, garnered the school’s first-ever Section IX boys basketball title downing powerful Coleman Catholic before vanquishing Section One’s Greenburgh Academy and Section 11’s Bridgehampton.
The run ended with a disappointing loss to Section Ten’s Madrid-Waddington in the NYSPHSA Class D semifinals.
Could this team be on the verge of another state run?
But first it will have to dispose of the winner of the Eldred-Chapel Field semifinal clash. There are no gimmies in high school basketball, but the odds are heavily in Manor’s favor to advance to the state quest should they play the kind of basketball they put on display against Sullivan West.
As for the Bulldogs, the road will likely begin with a trip to S.S. Seward, a team that Sullivan West played extremely close in both of their encounters this year.
But for the here and now, it was all about the local rivalry.
Manor has six seniors on this squad including this game’s leading scorer Terrence Lockhart. By night’s end the big fella would net 23 points, pull down a bevy of rebounds and offer a part of the Wildcats’s large and active interior defense, something they would need against the likes of penetrating Ronj Padu who would net a team-high 22 points and slashing guard Jiron Kevii would post 15. Mark Castro, who used to attend Livingston Manor added ten to the tally. Manor junior Ocean Heintz scored 11.
So here’s how it went down:
The first quarter began with a steal after Sullivan West controlled the tip, Heintz effected the theft and scored to draw first blood for the ‘Cats. Noah Bauer’s first attempts at threes rimmed out but the Section Nine Three-Point leader (55 to date) would net two down-towners by night’s end.
In his stead in the early going it was Padu who was hitting from long range. He had two missiles as part of his eight-point output. His near alley-oop dunk had the crowd on its feet and the shots of that rim-hanging milestone are part of the outstanding game moments catalogued at www.sportsiny.com
The lead see-sawed back and forth but Manor came out on top 16-12 by the end of the stanza. Heintz authored eight of those points with a pair of treys and a bucket. Lockhart netted four points as did Frank Kuttner.
Mark Castro hit two from the stripe and Kevii had a bucket for the Dawgs who came out with great energy only to be met by a Manor squad that was more than up to the task in that first quarter.
But in the second quarter the polarity shifted. Manor had a spate of turnovers and missed a bunch of easy shots in close. The result was a paltry two-points in eight minutes, while the Dawgs ran wild with 14.
Indeed as the quarters progressed, Sullivan West continued to improve going from 12 in the first quarter to 14, 16 and 18 in the periods that followed.
Sulivan West led 26-18 at the break with the scoring as follows in that second quarter:
Kevii led the way with six points. His dribble acumen was on display including one later sequence when he continued to dribble even after falling to the floor much to the joy of the looming Dawg Pound. Bauer found his range with a trey and Padu added three points. Castro had two. Lockhart had the sole bucket for the Wildcats who would look to reverse the curse in the second half.
Bauer opened the third quarter with a three as Sullivan West’s lead burgeoned to 11 at 29-18. Standing in to take a charge from Matt Janik earned Bauer more props from the crowd that has come to adore him. With that charge Janik picked up his fourth foul. Padu would end up with four by games’ end as well.
Lockart answered with a deft turnaround shot as Manor set about cutting the lead to an eventual four points. Sullivan West led would lead 42-38 by the end of the stanza. Manor closed out the quarter on a 9-5 run to pull within four.
Lockhart accounted for eight of Manor’s 20 point third quarter flourish. Matt Janik scored six of his eventual eight points in the stanza. Max Kaplan added four, while Heintz was quieter with two.
For the Westies Kevii, Padu and Bauer each netted four in the 16-point output. Castro and Stabbert had a bucket apiece.
The Westies inbounded to start the fourth quarter clinging to the four-point lead but there was drama aplenty about to unfold.
Heintz cut the deficit in half with a nifty drive to the rim. Padu picked up his third foul with 6:40 to go. Heintz hit two from the stripe to tie the game but Mark Castro’s lay up at the other end gave the Dawgs the lead. Max Kaplan tied the game up at 45-all with 5:49 remaining.
Padu and Bauer scored unanswered buckets to garner a 51-45 lead. Padu picked up his fourth foul with 4:56 remaining. A huge trey by Kevii gave the Dawgs a 54-47 lead. After Lockhard scored and added a free throw, Manor began another comeback surge. With 3:49 to go it was 54-52 as Sullivan West turned it over. But a traveling call aborted the attempt on the next Manor trip. Lockhart tied the game at 54-all with three minutes to go.
Lockhart gave the Wildcats a 56-54 lead with 2:23 to go. Shevak hit a floating turnaround shot to tie it up again at 56-all off the inbounds pass. Manor traveled on its next possession and would foul sending Padu to the line. He both to garner the 58-56 lead.
Padu would be sent to the line again and nailed both for the final 60-56 tally. Shevak helped to ice the game with a steal with 55 seconds remaining. The din became deafening as the home crowd sensed the win. At the final buzzer the fans swarmed the floor in an adoring flash mob to embrace the players.
Manor was eight-for-12 from the stripe (66%), while Sullivan West was 13-for-17 (76.4%).
Hicks felt the second quarter was key in leading to the eventual loss. “That was a momentum shifter and then we had to fight our way back. I’m very happy with our effort,” he noted playing a good team in their place. “Ill take it,” he averred but qualified it by saying, “we make some really, really stupid mistakes in big moments. With sectional time here I was more upset about the fact that we made those mistakes than what it cost us in this game. For future reference I’m hoping to make a run in sectionals this year and you can’t do that with mistakes like these against good teams in clutch time,” he added.
Hicks agreed that his team played with high energy. “I can’t be upset on Senior Night in a good school and a tough gym, keeping it close like that.”
Sullivan West Coach Bruce Nober said, “They’re well-coached and they keep coming at you. I thought we came out with a furious pace. Obviously it’s senior night and the crowd was wild and we came out with everything we had and they hung right with us.”
Nober felt this game was much better preparation for sectionals than having a blowout. “They’re a good team. They have strength and quickness up top. “I’m most pleased about the fact that we withstood the runs. We came out and hit a three to start the third quarter but they went on to take a lead in the fourth quarter.
“We didn’t hang our heads. We just worked harder and we’re starting to share the ball more on offense,” he added.
“We played Seward close,” he averred anticipating a clash with the Spartans down in Florida. “We’ll have two good days of practice and given them all we’ve got.”
For an album of photos, visit www.sportsiny.com.