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Pleasantville's James Leyden hasn't gotten many minutes this season. His career-high in scoring is six points and his number is not called very often.
So when Leyden was subbed into Pleasantville's league match-up against Croton-Harmon on Wednesday night with less than 30 seconds on the clock and the game tied, the sophomore didn't know what to expect.
He didn't expect to touch the ball and he certainly didn't expect he'd take a shot.
But 20 seconds later, Leyden made his only shot of the game, his only three of the season, and the biggest shot of his young career.
"It was unbelievable; to be honest I don't even remember it," Leyden said with a smile across his face. "Coach put me in for defense and Charlie had an outstanding game so I thought maybe he'd be taking (the final shot)... But I got lucky. Jack kicked it to me and I didn't think, I just hit it. It was incredible."
Pleasantville defeated Croton-Harmon 68-65 behind Leyden's last-second heroics. Croton (6-2) trailed by 12 points heading into the fourth quarter but battled back to tie the game with 35 seconds left. Leyden then hit the deep 3-pointer off of great assist from point guard Jack Eisenberg with six seconds remaining, sending the Pleasantville fans into pandemonium.
"I told James, 'You're too young and too inexperienced; you'd didn't know any better'," joked Pleasantville coach Chris Welsh. "To hit a shot in those circumstances; it was just him reverting to instinct. That's all it was. He wasn't thinking, he wasn't worried; he was just in that zone that everyone talks about. In the following timeout, he didn't even know where he was, he was on another planet... If this is a sign of things to come for him, I look forward to the next two-and-a-half years."
Though Leyden's shot proved to be the game-winner, Croton had a final chance to tie the game. After advancing the ball over half-court, Croton had 3.5 seconds left to attempt one final shot.
Welsh instructed the Pleasantville players to foul and keep the game out of luck's hands. The players repeatedly grabbed Croton's Wes Turner, keeping him from getting a shot off, but no foul was called. Turner was forced to take an off-balance heave and the game ended with the Croton faithful in disbelief.
"I guess there was no foul if the referee didn't call anything," Croton coach Bill Thom said. "I'm very disappointed because I thought we could have won this game."
Welsh said that his team definitely tried to foul. But that in a game like this, anything can happen.
"We absolutely tried to foul," said Welsh. "I think we did foul and I'm sure Croton does too. But the game was physical from beginning to end and that's how it played out."
Pleasantville's Charlie Montgomery led the way for the Panthers, scoring a game-high 25 points and grabbing seven rebounds. Montgomery shot 4-for-6 from behind the 3-point line and scored eight points in the opening quarter to help the Panthers jump out to a 20-11 first quarter lead.
"It was our first league game, so I just wanted to be aggressive and try and help us win," Montgomery said. "I just tried to do the best I could."
Nick Greto added 10 points and 14 rebounds and Eisenberg added 12 points and six assists.
"I'm so happy for James," said Eisenberg. "We tried to run a play and it broke down and I saw him and he hit the big shot. Not many sophomores out there would have."
Turner scored 25 points and had seven steals in the loss for Croton. Ian Thom added 20 points and Robert Simmons added 12 points and seven rebounds. The trio of players showed great poise down the stretch and were the main reason for the Croton comeback.
Pleasantville is now 8-0 in Welsh's first season as head coach. While the great start makes Welsh happy, he knows that the Panther's must continue to work.
"Look at our league," Welsh said. "Briarcliff, Ossining, Westlake, the great Croton team we just beat; these are good teams and they're continuing to get better throughout the year. We're happy with what we've done so far, but have to keep getting better if we want to continue our success."