Devaney: Players who'll decide the brackets
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There’s only 10 days of games left in the boys basketball season in Section 1. And if you’ve been following Bracketology on MSGVarsity.com, you know just how tight and ever-changing the playoff standings are.
Every game in the next 10 days has significant impact – and below are 10 of the players who’ll have the biggest say on how the brackets are decided.
These aren’t necessarily the 10 Best Players, although many of them are serious All-Section contenders. But these are 10 players who mean the most to their team entering the final stretch of what’s been an incredible regular season.
Here they are, in no particular order:
Ke’Shaun Stallworth, Pelham: It’s no coincidence that the return of Stallworth has coincided with the Pelicans’ six-game winning streak and rise up the Class A standings. Stallworth, who missed the first half of the season with lingering football injuries, has given Pelham what it was severely lacking in its 4-5 start to the season: consistent point-guard play. Stallworth limits turnovers, is so good at the drive-and-kick and is as physically strong and tough as any player in the conference. Stallworth has also brought an indefinable toughness and confidence level to this team that will serve it very well. Pelham is a sleeper in Class A.
Joe Clarke, New Rochelle: When the season began, Clarke was a raw talent who posted impressive rookie numbers for the Huguenots. He’s developing more and more into a polished player with strong post moves and an ability to knock down mid-range, and even 3-point, shots. Clarke is typically giving up a few inches on every post player he goes against yet he’s almost an automatic double-double. New Rochelle is the No. 2 team in Class AA largely because of his development.
Dylan Perretz, Fox Lane: When you have a 6-foot-7 center like Perretz to play along alongside perhaps the most dynamic post player in Section 1 (Will Trawick), your team should own the paint. Fox Lane does on most nights, and is a serious threat to get to a title game when Perretz is camped out down low. He’s turned himself into a great rebounder and has the ability to face the basket and shoot over defenders. Trawick gets most of the attention. But remember that opposing teams have to put their biggest bodies on Perretz. His presence is key to Fox Lane’s postseason chances.
Jack Daly, Eastchester: Who’s the best point guard in Section 1? Daly has to at least be in the conversation, especially when you talk about underclassmen. The sophomore is in his second season as a starter and has learned to take control of the offense at a young age. He’s a vastly better shooter and plays with great savvy and poise. What he’s done in late-game situations makes him a dangerous player heading down the stretch.
Kevin Degnan, Pearl River. There have been stetches this season where Pearl River has looked very good — and times where the Pirates have struggled to put the ball in the basket. When things are going well, it’s usually when Degnan, a 6-foot-6 forward, is stepping outside and creating mismatches. He’s an excellent shooter for a player his size and is gaining confidence in the paint. Pearl River could make it to the County Center — or get upset in the first round. Austin O’Toole and Joe Clinton are strong backcourt duo. But how far this team goes will hinge on how much Pearl River gets Degnan the ball.
Clayton Roker, Clarkstown South: Mike McCahey is on the short list of Mr. Basketball candidates in Section 1. But Clayton Roker is the key to Clarkstown South’s season. Defenses are almost entirely geared to stopping McCahey (which rarely works). But when the ball is in Roker’s hands the Vikings run things through him, they’re a more potent team. Roker is a slasher who’s taken over big games and is gaining confidence in his playmaking ability off the dribble. McCahey scores the majority of his points as a spot-shooter and on the offensive glass. If South lets Roker create, it will take an enormous amount of pressure off McCahey.
Chandler Pierce, Peekskill: Who’s Chandler Pierce? People in Class A will learn soon enough. In Peekskill’s 5-for-5 substitution methods, no real star players have emerged. But Pierce has done his best work in late-game situations. He’s 6-3 with an ability to score anywhere on the court, which is a matchup few teams in the conference will be able to defend. And because Pierece plays unselfish and is a quality passer, Peekskill has learned to lean on him more and more of late. It’s paying off.
John Yozzo-Scaperrotta, Dobbs Ferry: There might not be a more physically tough team in Section 1 than Dobbs, which is a team of football players around a gifted basketball talent in Eric Paschall. But that style isn’t going to work against the elite teams in Class B, which was proven in the loss to Woodlands. That’s where Yozzo-Scaperrotta comes in. He’s a more polished inside player than he gets credit for. If Dobbs really committed to working the ball inside to Yozzo, Scaperrotta, Paschall and Thomas Fleming — and not fire from all over without rhythm like the first Woodlands game — the Eagles can beat anyone in Class B. Yozzo-Scaperrotta is most important because he hasn’t gotten many touches at time this season. He could be a double-double machine.
Jack Eisenberg, Pleasantville: The Panthers’ rebirth after struggling last season has been due in part to the balance and depth the team has. But Eisenberg has played as big a role as anyone. The point guard is a pure play-maker, a solid long-range shooter and is unafraid to go at an opposing big man and play with contact. Pleasantville needs to win out (Ossining, Westlake, Briarcliff) and be a Top 4 seed to have its best chance to get the County Center. Pleasantville has already lost to Ossining and Briarcliff. It will be up to Eisenberg to lead the turnaround.
Wes Turner, Croton-Harmon: Few people are talking about Croton as a County Center threat, mainly because many think it’s all about stopping one player — star junior guard Ian Thom. While Thom is a gifted scorer, the growth of the rest of the Tigers could get them over the hump. Turner showed how his presence and energy on both end of the court can change games, which he did against Panas. He’s a stat sheet-stuffer who’s a strong rebounder and defender. Croton goes deep into its bench but usually keeps Thom and Turner on the floor at all times. They’re a great complement to each other.
Email Kevin Devaney Jr. at email@example.com