Cameron Ciero broke a bone in his wrist in Horace Greeley’s second game of the season and was sidelined nearly a month. The Quakers lost four of the six games in Ciero’s absence.
You can’t really blame the loss of Ciero, a sophomore reserve, for the Quakers’ disappointing start to the year. But you may be able to trace the team’s turnaround to the clutch play he made in his return on Monday at Rye.
Ciero stole an inbounds pass with 38.2 seconds left — one of three Greeley steals in a wild 29-second span — and converted the game-winning basket as the Quakers shocked Rye on its home floor 65-61.
Greeley (3-5) trailed by as many as 10 points and closed the game with a 10-1 run in the final minutes.
“I hate to say we got lucky, but we got lucky,” Quakers senior Harrison Brown said. “It was a great game, we pulled it out and we played strong. We need a win like that.”
Brown carried Greeley through the first three-and-a-half quarters. The 6-foot-3 win scored 30 points on 11 of 14 shooting and grabbed 11 rebounds.
Matt Xie picked up the slack in the final minutes. Trailing 60-55, Xie converted a three-point play with 1:08 remaining to give the Quakers hope.
Greeley, which hadn’t pressed effectively all game, defended the inbound and force a pass into traffic. Xie stepped in front of it and layed it with 59 seconds left to cut Rye’s lead to 61-60.
Again, the Garnets threw a bad pass to mid-court, which Xie stepped in front of. The Quakers missed a 3-pointer but the ball went out of bounds of Brown, again giving Rye the ball under its own basket.
“We put some pressure on them and, most of all, the boys believed in themselves,” said Gary Abrams, who coached Greeley with head coach Dave Fernandes recovering from should surgery. “That’s what I was stressing the whole time. We had to win this game with defense."
That’s when Ciero came up with Greeley’s biggest play of the year. Inbounding with 41.9 seconds, Ciero intercepted a pass under the Quakers basket and converted an acrobatic lay-up while getting fouled. His free throw put Greeley up 63-61.
“To be honest, I couldn’t believe it when it happened,” Brown said. “It was a sick steal. Whenever a young kid makes a steal and goes up strong like that, you can’t ask for anything more.”
Rye missed a 3-pointer — after making eight in the game — on the ensuing possession. Xie, who scored seven of his 17 points in the fourth quarter, hit three free throws in the final 14 seconds to seal an important victory.
“A win like this is a lot more important than just the win itself,” Abrams said. “These kids need to believe in themselves. They need to feel good about themselves. Obviously, we were hoping for a lot better than a 2-5 start. A win like this, I’m proud of the way they fought.”
“We had big expectations coming into the year and we’ve definitely fallen short,” Xie said. “We’re this win can be big for us with games against Fox Lane and Byram Hills coming up.”
Mike O’Neill led Rye with 19 points, including four 3-pointers, and Max Twyman added 17 and eight rebounds.
Email Kevin Devaney Jr. at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @MSGVarsityKDJ