Bobcats win 46-45 Thriller to Take Section One Title

A Look Back at Byram Hills 2016 Section One Championship

Bobcats win 46-45 Thriller to Take Section One Title

Last year when Byram Hills found themselves in the Section Finals, the Bobcats almost had one foot out the door before stepping on the floor. They were blown out 75-41 against heavily favored Spring Valley. Last night, though, the matchup was a tossup, and when Rob McWilliams’ halfcourt heave at the buzzer thudded off the glass for Tappan Zee, the slim margin of error favored the Bobcats. Thus, they are the Section One, Class Champs and leave a memory for Byram Hills that may never come down.

Both teams showcased a determined defensive effort, and the first quarter netted only a combined 11 points. The first points didn't even come until a Tappan Zee free throw by Center Sean Peterson broke the ice at 5:52.

The game plan had Byram Hills strong up the middle as Matt Groll held his ground, while Tappan Zee’s frenzied guard play stymied the perimeter and deterred the ball movement inside to Matt Groll.

But it was Groll finding Skylar Sinon cutting to the hoop that got Byram Hills on the board. Taking the baseline opening, the sophomore made a reverse layup look easy despite all the Tappan Zee traffic at the rim.

 In between a number of rolls off the rim by both teams, a Groll put back and Louis Filippelli putting some muscle on a reverse layup of his own tallied all of Byram’s first quarter points. A jump shot by Kevin Lynch and a layup from McWilliams would account for Tappan Zee’s five points.

The second quarter seemed to have Byram Hills settling into a better offensive rhythm, but a couple key plays on defense by Tappan Zee kept the game contained.  


Nonetheless, Matt Nowlin opened the quarter by nailing a three. Bringing the Byram Hills student body roaring to its feet, they sensed the Bobcats outside shooting was on track.

Possibly feeling the same thing, Tappan Zee’s next few possessions went awry. McWilliams threw a running prayer at the backboard, hoisted a layup that missed everything, and Peterson forced a pass that was batted away.

The ensuing inbound no better, tough ball denial had the ball going the other way, and the crowd was ready to turn the sea change into a tsunami. But Ben Leff picked Matt Milone’s pocket and converted two free throws to stay close at 9-7.

Undeterred and after a scramble for the rebound on the Tappan Zee end, Sinon came up with the ball and located Groll down court. The Bobcat center shook the defense and got to the rim for an 11-7 lead.

But before, the crowd could get in gear, Tappan Zee found some touch above the arc too.  Ryan Holder’s three put Byram on hold at 11-10.

After Groll couldn’t convert down low, and McWilliams matched him by missing from three, Groll was able to put back Sinon’s missed jumper at 4:31 for a 13-10 lead.

Following two bricked free throws by Peterson, Sinon got the better of gravity on offense.  Driving into the paint, he juked and found enough opening to go just above the defense for a short swish.

 Peterson answered with a roll to the hoop and a 15-12 score. But when Tappan Zee hesitated in covering Milone above the arc, he took the dare for an 18-12 advantage.

Kevin Lynch answered inside to cut the lead to four, and no one missed the foreboding when Groll committed his third foul with 32 seconds remaining. A free throw by Lynch cut the lead to three, and hoping to cushion Groll’s foul trouble with a bigger lead, Byram Hills froze in its tracks. Tappan Zee forced a five second violation on Milone, and Lynch hit a jumper at the buzzer to end the half down 18-17.

Nonetheless, a Sinon layup opened the third, but Tappan Zee knew Groll would be back on his heels, and they took advantage. Peterson took the next possession inside, and now Byram Hills feeling the tide changing, McWilliams stole the inbounds and took a 21-20 lead on a layup.  

Filippelli’s subsequent three followed and made everyone wait for a short lived 23-21 advantage. Off the front rim, the Byram Hill’s crowd endured an eternity as the ball took its time off the backboard and finally through the net.

On the other hand, Tappan Zee could afford to let the kind bounce roll off them. Lynch got the ball inside off Groll’s standoffishness and rolled to the hoop for a three point play.  The middle opened up next time down, Lynch then kicked it out to Gibson for a 27-23 lead.

Following two free throws from Filippelli, Lynch pounded out six straight points. The final one after ripping the ball from Groll to extend the lead to 33-25 at 3:00.

The Tappan Zee side now doling out the decibels, Groll’s short jumper gave pause and then Milone put the muffs on Tappan Zee on both ends. Coming open off a Sinon miss, he nailed a three and returned the steal he lost earlier to cut the lead to one on two free throws.

Peterson didn’t shrink, though. The center muscled an offensive board for the three point play and a tie score. However, Sinon would answer with another shake and bake inside the paint to close the quarter down 36-34.

Between a Sinon layup, a two and a three to start the fourth gave Tappan Zee a five point lead. But the outside success might have gotten Tappan Zee off their inside game. 

Even so, the Bobcat guards took the cue. Matt Nowlin responded with a three off a Sinon kickback and then converted a layup on another Sinon dish to tie at 41 with 4:50 remaining.

Staying outside, Gibson misfired. But Tappan Zee did get down to inside business again. Peterson easily went glass against Groll on a layup.

The Byram crowd now off its center too, they were ready to straighten as Milone came clear on a three. Unable to knock it down, the Byram faithful went into a decided slouch as McWilliams’ jumper opened a four point lead with shot clock expiring.

2:55 remaining, those turned out to be Tappan Zee’s last points. The end began when Sinon came open this time for a three. The tournament MVP came drained it and paved the way for his center to register the deciding basket.

After Gibson came up way short on jumper, Groll dove head long into the scramble and got the ball to Sinon before he was fouled.  Off the inbound, Sinon found Groll in the paint, and he rolled to the hoop for the game’s final points with 1:05 remaining.

But the drama was far from over.  After the ball rolled out of bounds off Peterson’s leg, McWilliams fouled Nowlin at the top of the key. Twenty-Eight seconds remained after the non shooting foul and ten seconds later, Tappan Zee put Nowlin on the line.

His one and one was short, and all was still up in the air as the rebound bounced up off Groll’s hands. But Nowlin would grab the board and get the ball to Sinon. He was fouled with 9.2 seconds left.

Their best shooter on the line, the championship only awaiting his proficiency. That is until he also rimmed in and out. But Groll got the rebound and found Sinon for a deja vu. Fouled with 4.2 seconds left, he missed again.


But too much court and plenty of blue jerseys in between, a miracle was Tappan Zee’s only recourse. Nonetheless, McWilliams shot from half court still held everyone’s heart in their throats. Thus, the prayer careening of the backboard was silenced by the roar of the crowd and a dream fulfilled.

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Rich Monetti
Rich Monetti
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