The last time the Mamaroneck boys basketball program found itself celebrating a trip to the Westchester County Center, “All in the Family” was the top-rated television show in America, The Osmonds were tearing up the pop charts, and Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier were still weeks away from stepping through the ropes at Madison Square Garden for the first of their three legendary bouts.
But on Friday, Feb. 23, playing in front of a raucous home crowd, the No. 3 seed Tigers were able to outwork and outlast No. 6 Spring Valley 49-42, breaking a 47-year drought and punching the team’s first ticket to the sectional semifinals since 1971.
“It’s a crazy feeling,” Tiger senior forward Jared Bader said after the game. “Coming up, going to the County Center is kind of the thing you always want to happen, but you don’t know if it’s going to, so this is special.”
Bader did his best to get Mamaroneck off on the right foot on Friday night, scoring the game’s first 10 points and helping the Tigers head into halftime with a 26-22 lead. But as Spring Valley began to focus its attention on stopping Bader, other Tigers stepped up to fill the offensive void, especially junior center Will Sarkozi who finished with a team-high 15 points.
“It wasn’t our game plan, but whenever teams start to faceguard me, it gives more opportunities for other guys to score,” Bader said. “It’s always about the team effort.”
Sarkozi added that the Tigers’ offense stemmed, in large part, from the team’s efforts on the other end of the floor.
“We started getting steals and taking charges and I think that helped us get into a rhythm,” he said. “And that definitely helped me because I was having trouble getting my shot off earlier in the game.”
Despite Mamaroneck’s solid effort, Spring Valley would prove to be a game opponent, taking its first lead of the game with under a minute left in the third quarter on a three-point play by freshman Jaheim Parinello.
Mamaroneck refused to cave, however, and regained control for good with two minutes to go on a jumpshot by senior point guard James Manetta.
“We talked about it a lot coming in and James knew it was his last home game ever and he hit that clutch jumper,” Sarkozi said. “I think you saw the desire our guys had not to go home.”
With the win, the Tigers advance to the semifinals at the Westchester County Center where they will tangle with No. 18 seed Ramapo on Wednesday, Feb. 28, after press time. Ramapo topped Clarkstown South 68-65 on Friday afternoon.
“This has been special, especially because most people didn’t expect much from us in the beginning of the season,” Sarkozi said. “We’ve had a chip on our shoulders, we wanted to show people what we’re capable of, so this means a lot.”