The Pearl River boys basketball team looked like a team ready to extend its winning streak to five games during the first quarter of Monday's game at Albertus Magnus, building a 14-point lead.
"Obviously, they were playing well," Albertus Magnus Head Coach Pat McFadden said. "I thought we were a step slow. I thought the pace of the game was where we needed it. We've got a pretty mature group. We were bending, but we didn't break. We didn't get knocked out."
The Falcons responded, slowly eating away at the lead to send the teams to the half tied, then eventually holding off a late rally by the Pirates for a 62-59 victory.
"It's a tough one to swallow," Pearl River Head Coach Jerry Houston, Jr. said. "We had our opportunities. The better the team (you play), the better you have to be. I feel like we're going to be in this game the rest of the way. This only prepared us for what's coming."
Pearl River's record dropped to 9-6 while Albertus Magnus (13-2) continued to establish itself among the top contenders in Section 1 even though they Falcons lost many of the players who won the last two Class B titles and they moved up to Class A for this year's playoffs.
"I think the kids, and it grew on me, we got tired of hearing our run was over," McFadden said. "I think this is a blue collar group that shows up. They show up and bring it."
They also do it with more balance than they did earlier in the season. Albertus Magnus needed 31 points from senior guard Jack Sullivan to win its first meeting with Pearl River this season. Sullivan started slow before coming on to score 21 points in the contest, but he had plenty of help. Four Falcons scored in double figures, including Brian McFadden with 18, Owen Lorenz with 13 and Matt Dale with 10.
"I don't know who those guys are. All we have is Jack," Coach McFadden joked. "You need more than one player to win a section. Our goal is to win the section. We need other players to step up and I think they stepped up."
"They shot the ball really, really well," Houston said. "They have a super scorer in Sullivan and the other guys are really good players. They were very well balanced tonight. That's something they've gotten better at."
Junior forward Kevin Degnan led Pearl River with a game-high 24 points. Sophomore Jack Byrnes scored 12 and sophomore Tom Armour contributed 10.
The Pirates trailed by as many as seven points in the fourth quarter, but rallied to make the end close.
Armour got the Pirates within one with a three-point play with 1:44 remaining in the contest, but Sullivan responded by making his fifth 3-point shot of the contest.
Degnan pulled the Pirates within two at 61-59 on a put-back with seven seconds remaining. Pearl River fouled Lorenz, who made one of two free throws to push the edge to three. The Pirates got one last shot, but Degnan could not get a 3-point shot with a hand in his face to fall.