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HARTSDALE, N.Y. – At the beginning of the Class B playoffs there was a lot of talk about who could win the championship. Albertus Magnus and Dobbs Ferry were heavy favorites with Woodlands trailing just behind. Pleasantville, Blind Brook, and even Briarcliff, were also thrown into the mix.
But one team that almost nobody picked was Croton-Harmon. The sixth-seeded Tigers had a strong season, but no one seemed to talk about them at all.
“We knew we could make the County Center,” said Croton star forward Wes Turner. “No one else thought we could but we knew.”
People will certainly be talking about them now.
Croton advanced to the County Center on Wednesday night, shocking third-seeded Woodlands in a 56-55 thriller. Croton advanced to play Albertus Magnus in the Section 1 Class B semifinals next Wednesday.
Woodlands took the lead late in the third quarter but the two teams battled back-and-forth before Woodlands grabbed a two-point lead with just 53 seconds remaining.
Turner was then sent to the line to try and tie the game with 30 seconds left. He missed the first free-throw and made the second, but a Woodlands turnover gave Croton back the ball.
A side out-of-bounds play was called for Turner, but he mishandled the catch and the ball went out-of-bounds. The senior would not be denied though and he stole the ensuing in-bounds pass and finished a tough lay-up plus the foul to give Croton a 55-54 lead.
“Wes was awesome,” Croton guard Ian Thom said. “Senior year, he knew it could be his last game; you gotta play every possession like it’s your last and he did.”
Turner missed the free-throw but Thom grabbed the offensive rebound and sank a free-throw of his own. Woodlands guard Justin Smith was fouled with four seconds remaining and sank one free-throw to make it 56-55 with 3.4 seconds to play.
Woodlands then fouled Turner who missed the first shot and strategically missed the second free-throw long. D’Andre Tilford’s half-court heave to win the game was just short.
“We did all this without our point guard Aaron Thompson,” Croton coach Bill Thom said. “It was tough because we had some guys in spots they’ve never been in. But everyone responded the way we wanted… We have nine seniors and they worked their butts off. They really deserve to be (in the County Center).”
While Turner played hero at the end of the game, he was also the main spark plug to get the Tigers going early. Turner poured in 16 of his game-high 21 points in the first quarter.
“A lot of games this year we’ve came out slow, dug ourselves into a whole and had to come back,” Turner said. “I just wanted to make sure that didn’t happen again.”
Thom added 13 points and six rebounds while Robert Simmons scored 10 points and had nine rebounds. Brian Oliver also chipped in with 10 points.
Woodlands did what they could to win the game but ended up falling just short. The Falcons were without star forward Reece Williams, who suffered an Achilles injury and was forced to sit out.
Woodlands coach Bill Murphy says Williams’ absence was no excuse.
“Reece is always the most aggressive guy on the floor, but they were missing one of their kids too,” Murphy said. “I thought we got out-played tonight, I thought we got out-coached tonight. But inside a minute, we still had the ball and we were up one. The rest determines the game. I’ll take that any time. That’s just where it fell.”
Falcons’ guard Andre Scipio finished with 19 points and five assists while center Fred Bowers added 12 points and 13 rebounds. Tilford finished with eight points and nine rebounds.
After the game, Croton talked of their expectations heading into the County Center using the momentum from a win like this.
“Our goal was to win the gold ball when we started,” Thom said. “Why change it?”