The chants of “defense” were quickly drowned out by chants of “offense,” but to be fair, the Riverside Rams were a bit outnumbered.
Riverside did not bring many fans for the trip from Yonkers to Pearl River Friday night, So with the game close in the second quarter, Riverside Coach Bryan Kreps and the players on his bench broke out into a “defense” chant for the players on the floor.
The packed stands of Pearl River fans quickly realized what was going and broke out into an “offense” chant, treating the Rams bench how they’d normally treat fans from an opposing team. After the Pirates pulled away a few minutes later, the Pearl River fans directed an “awfully quiet” chant at the Riverside bench.
Along with their bench, the Rams offense went quiet Friday night after the half as well, as the Pirates pulled away to win 75-47 in a first-round Class A playoff game.
“In the first half, we were a little bit passive defensively and maybe in a little bit of a rush offensively. We maybe forced a couple of things,” said Pearl River Coach Jerry Houston, Jr. “In the second half, we shored up on defense, rebounded much better, and in rebounding better and allowing them to one shot, I think that allowed us to get out for some easy baskets, whereas in the first half they were getting a lot of second and third shots.”
While the Pirates led by seven after one quarter and by nine at the half, the Rams' uptempo play kept them in the game.
“That’s what we do,” Kreps said. “We run, we run, we run.”
Pearl River sophomore forward Kevin Degnan said the Rams were “leaking out in the beginning” of the game, making it hard for the Pirates to get back on defense. Pearl River senior point guard Joe Clinton said it threw them off early, but they were able to adapt.
Clinton especially enjoyed the fact-paced style as the point guard.
“I like uptempo,” Clinton said. “You get to push the ball and get easy shots.”
Clinton led all scorers with 23 points. He hit lay-ups, floaters in the lane and two three-pointers. The fast tempo also allowed him to spread the ball around quite a bit, including one time in the third quarter on an alley-oop to Sean Wilson.
“He gets up so high you’ve just got to put it up there and he gets there every time,” Clinton said.
Pearl River’s hustle extended beyond the offense. Multiple times during the game at least one Pirate dove onto the court to grab a loose ball. Shortly after his alley-oop, Wilson chased down a Riverside pass nearly the length of the court near one of the sidelines, knocked the ball out of bounds and then fell into the second row of the bleachers, knocking a gentlemen off the bench and into the aisle.
“Their effort was excellent tonight, especially a guy like Sean Wilson, who was all over the place, on the floor diving for loose balls,” Houston said. “Austin (O'Toole) got down there a couple of times and that’s kind of how we have to play if we are going to be successful. There’s not too much that’s going to come that easy to us. We’ve got to create our breaks, so if the ball’s on the floor, we’ve got to have it.”
In the fourth, Wilson dropped to the court again, this time however due to an injury. Wilson apparently twisted his right ankle, although he walked off the court without any assistance. He didn’t come back into the game, but at that point Pearl River led by 28. After the game, Houston said Wilson was icing it and walking around.
Degnan scored 20 points for the Pirates, showing off his versatility by hitting two three-pointers as well as scoring a bunch of his points in the paint.
“If you’re an outside perimeter threat, they have to respect that,” Degnan said. “If you go down, they’re a little cautious so you can shoot the ball. It definitely helps.”
He said that after the first half, Houston told him to keep going on offense.
“In the first half Kevin was a little bit lethargic, a little bit sluggish,” Houston said. “In the second half, he responded really really well [and] showed a lot of maturity in the second half.”
O’Toole scored 14 and Wilson chipped in nine of the Pirates. Ian Parker led Riverside with 19 points.
Next up for the Pirates (14-6) is a trip to No. seeded Tappan Zee (19-0) 7 p.m. Wednesday. The Dutchmen have beat Pearl River twice this season already, though both were early on.