Mamaroneck’s dream season came to an end on Feb. 28, as the No. 3 Tigers fell to No. 18 Ramapo 47-44 in overtime of the Class AA semifinals at the Westchester County Center. But even though the Tigers couldn’t do enough to stop the upstart Gryphons on the court of Westchester’s most famous arena, head coach Ty Carver is still in awe of what his club was able to accomplish this winter.
The Tigers (18-5) seemed poised to push on through to a finals showdown with Mount Vernon, holding a 41-36 lead over the Gryphons with just 22 seconds left in regulation. But Brian Aldeus was perfect from the line after he was fouled on a 3-point attempt and Anthony Simon tied the score moments later with a floater in the lane to send the game into overtime.
That late game push would be all the momentum Ramapo would need down the stretch, as they punched their ticket to an improbably Class AA finals appearance.
According to Carver, the Tigers came into the game well aware that Ramapo’s 10-14 record didn’t accurately represent the Gryphon’s abilities.
“There were absolutely no surprises for us, we were aware of their athleticism and their grit even prior to their run,” the coach said. “I just felt like we never got in rhythm and it’s disappointing because it was probably the worst game we played all year in what was a remarkable season.”
Remarkable is one way to describe the Tigers’ 2017-18 campaign; historic may be another.
In securing a Class AA semifinal appearance, this Mamaroneck squad played its first postseason game at the County Center since 1971, and posted its best overall record since 1974.
“We thought we had the pieces in place to have a good season,” Carver said. “But without a doubt, this group exceeded my expectations and I want to thank them for everything they gave.”
Carver was especially pleased with the play of his three senior starters, James Manetta, Isiah Thomas and Jared Bader, who will all graduate this spring. Over the course of the trio’s career, the Mamaroneck program has improved by leaps and bounds, something Carver attributes to his veterans’ team-first attitude.
“Over the last couple of years, this group has had a lot of ups-and-downs on the varsity level,” Carver said. “But to see what they’ve been able to accomplish, especially in their senior year, that speaks volumes about their character and the huge impact they’ve had.”
As the Tigers look to the future, a number of players who contributed to this year’s run will be asked to step into leadership roles next season, as players like Shane Smith, Tommy Martin, Ethan Renner and Thomas Plunkett are all set to return. Also returning will be junior center Will Sarkozi, who emerged as a top front-court threat this season and will likely serve as the focal point for Mamaroneck’s offense next year.
“He developed a lot this year, but in order to move forward, he knows he’s going to have a target on his back,” Carver said of Sarkozi. “He’s going to have to shoulder the load of being ‘The Man.’”
The big man’s newfound attention, added Carver added, will likely mirror the way teams on the schedule approach the Tiger squad next year.
“When you have a season like this, you can’t sneak up on anyone, people start to recognize you,” the coach said. “The bar has been raised, and we’re going to have to work twice as hard to have this kind of success.”