White Plains Tigers maul hoop Rams, ending regular season on losing note
February 21, 2019 at 7:24 a.m.
The schedule makers didn't do the Port Chester varsity basketball Rams any favors by sending them up against the White Plains Tigers for their home season finale last Wednesday (2/13), senior day no less and the day before Valentine's Day.
The Tigers didn't show the Rams any love.
It was more like a bloodless slaughter.
Lose by 52
The Rams lost 87-35, and that's a 52-point differential if you are keeping count.
The only real suspense from the opening minutes on was whether White Plains would win by more than 50.
So much for the suspense.
It was like the Rams were sleep walking from the outset. And the Tigers wasted no time in turning the game into a nightmare with "The Godfather" Mafia movie-like overtones and an echo of the real-life godfather Carlo Gambino saying:
"Judges, lawyers and politicians have a license to steal. We don't need one."
Neither did White Plains.
Men of steal
They played like men of steal.
Their collective hands flicked out fast, like a serpent's tongue. And those flicks resulted in steal after steal and what amounted to a layup drill for a very good White Plains team that has already beaten Mount Vernon and Clarkstown South, the number one- and three-ranked teams in Westchester-Rockland County, while losing close to Clarkstown South and Scarsdale, the second- and fifth-ranked teams in the area.
That makes White Plains one of the top-ranked teams in the Section One basketball tournament championships that start Saturday (2/23) and run throughout the week leading up to the finals Mar. 2 at Pace University's Goldstein Center.
The Tigers go into the tournament as the fourth seed, their leading players—Eisaiah Murphy and Jason Norwood—are considered viable MVP candidates and White Plains is rated as a good bet to win it all.
They certainly looked the part against the Rams, a team that hasn't made the playoffs in five seasons and counting.
Murphy and Norwood scored almost at will on an assortment of drives, steals and jumpers from near and far, so much so that their coach had them sitting for most of the game.
Off and running
The Tigers raced off on a 12-0 run in the opening minutes—mostly on steals, like they were picking the Rams’ pockets—and never looked back.
Especially when the White Plains second team opened the second half with a similar 12-0 run. And their third team came in and kept scoring like they thought they were all starters.
So it was 30-16 at the end of the first quarter, 53-19 at the half, 72-30 at the end of the third quarter and 87-35 at the finish. And that was with the White Plains coach subbing frequently, playing mostly his scrubs and not trying to run up the score.
That just goes to show you how far the Rams have to go if they hope to become competitive.
And it shows how far respected first year Rams coach Manny Martinez has to go if he hopes to turn around a losing program.
Bridge too far
An indication of that bridge too far came early on when Martinez had to call a timeout to remind his point guard he was supposed to bring the ball up court instead of relying on forward Marlwyn Tejada to do most of the dribbling.
Martinez also had to remind one of his biggest players, a perennial outside shooter, that it would be a good idea to drive to the basket and maybe get under the boards every once in a while to help Tejada with the rebounding.
His urging his players to use their superior bulk to drive around the thoroughbred slim Tigers and muscle them under the boards went mostly unheard.
And so it went.
In terms of sheer size, the Rams more than matched up against White Plains. But here size didn't count because the Tigers virtually ran rings around the Rams and played together as a team while the Rams never really got untracked and even had trouble getting the ball inbounds against a surging White Plains press.
Tejada high scorer
It didn't help any that Tejada was the only Ram to hit double figures with 13 points and nobody else came close. Or that the Ram Bigs are a work in progress so any attempts to pass over the top and into the paint didn't work. Or that their defense was porous with White Plains frequently hitting open threes from outside because nobody had a hand in their face.
Martinez, a no-nonsense coach who helped turn around a losing Lady Trojans basketball program at Blind Brook, knows he has his work cut out for him to do the same thing at Port Chester, albeit with the Rams who finished 2-18 on the regular season with those two wins twice as many as last year.
But Martinez, the most famous local sports Manny this side of Manny Machado, the baseball free agent who just signed a 10-year, $300 million contract with the San Diego Padres Tuesday (2/19), is realistic enough to understand that it is going to take a while, maybe a good long while, like years, to get the Rams back on track with an off-season training program, lots of AAU competitive basketball and a calendar full of extra hours shooting, running, and working on drills in the gym.
That is his way. And the only way any kind of improvement is going to happen.
Martinez, an ex-athlete and a respected educator with more than 30 years as a teacher at Port Chester High School, knows he can't do the work for the kids. They have to buy into the process and the program by going back to basics, learning the hoop ABCs and putting what they learn into practice as well as in the games.
"The team pretty much fell apart when we lost Shamel (Mel) Jones, our best player, to injury and you just can't replace your best scorer, rebounder, ball handler and top defensive player," Martinez said. "It didn't help any that our next best player (freshman ball handler Pedro Silva) transferred to Fox Lane. Or that our bigs were either hurting (Denis Garcia) or playing hurt (Tejada). So any real improvement next year is going to take time."
That wasn't said by way of making excuses. That was just Manny being Manny, talking straight and telling it like it is. He praised his seniors for trying hard and never quitting on him, especially Chris Pennella who scored more than 250 points on the season and wound up making the All-League team and was the MVP of the Dapper McDonald Tournament, the ever-improving Masiah Cooper who could well go on to play college ball, and ex-football players Taleahk Wells, who never quit hustling, and Vincent Rose, who kept coming on strong towards the end of the season.
But he didn't really have enough time to mold them into his kind of team in just one season. He has high hopes that he gets Jones back next year along with an improved Tejada, ball handlers such as Will MacAllister and Corey Heckel, and solid outside shooter Matt Del Cid. Whether that will be enough to become a team like White Plains or even a team that can be competitive against a team like the Tigers remains to be seen. But if anybody can do it, Manny can.