Liam Pakola Ryan Ritch

Irvington's Liam Pakola defends against Dobbs Ferry’s Ryan Ritch on Feb. 20.

It wasn’t pretty, but Hastings opened its 2021 season with a 52-47 win over Ardsley on Feb. 23.

The visiting Yellow Jackets looked like a team playing their first game after a handful of practices. However, the defending Section I/Class B champions made enough plays down the stretch to hang on for the victory.

The loss dropped Ardsley to 2-2 on the season. It was the Panthers’ second straight loss after opening with a sweep of a home-and-home series with Edgemont.

The win meant a little more to the returning players on the Hastings roster. Last year, the Jackets went 23-2, including a loss at Ardsley. 

“We had a tough game here last year — one of the two losses we had the whole year,” Hastings swingman Josh Thigpen said. “We wanted to win this one. We used that loss last year as motivation.”

The Jackets led 43-33 with 3:25 remaining in the game. Fifty seconds later, the Panthers had narrowed that lead to 43-40 after a pair of free throws by Miles Cooperman, a transition bucket by Nate McFarlane, and a trey from the right corner by Jackson Garcia.

The Panthers pulled to within two points on two occasions the rest of the way — once at 45-43 after a Garcia three-ball with exactly 2 minutes left, the other at 47-45 on a foul line jumper by Ryan Watson with 1:30 left.

On the ensuing possession after Watson’s bucket, Thigpen converted a spinning move down the lane to increase Hastings’ advantage to 49-45 with 1:10 remaining.

Ardsley came up empty on its next two possessions. However, the Panthers stayed within striking distance as the Jackets converted only 1-of-3 free throw attempts.

Watson inched the Panthers closer at 50-47 with 13 ticks remaining after he made a pair of free throws. Chris Rotiroti then put the game away for Hastings, sinking a pair of free throws — his fourth and fifth points of the day — with 11 seconds to play.

“We have been in games like this before, so we knew what to do,” Rotiroti said.

Thigpen also acknowledged that the championship experience paid dividends.

“We did lose some key pieces from last year, but we also have a solid core back this season,” Thigpen said. “We have that solid core that has a lot of championship experience with them. I would say that helped a lot today.”

The opening quarter was one of runs. Hastings scored the first eight points, then Ardsley responded with the next nine. The period ended with the Panthers leading,11-9.

A six-point run late in the second period helped the Jackets grab a 22-16 lead at the intermission.

Neither team looked comfortable on offense over the first two stanzas, though each committed only six turnovers. On defense, the teams contested almost every shot attempt. 

Thigpen took over in the third quarter, scoring eight of his game-high 21 points and helping the Jackets to a 34-30 lead heading into the fourth period.

“This is a blessing,” Thigpen said. “I was really preparing not to have a season, so I was just ecstatic and excited to get back in the gym and then get the chance to play.”

Garcia and Watson each had 11 points to lead Ardsley, while Keith Capuano added a dozen points for Hastings, which also received 10 points from Rob Kennedy. Hastings shot 37% (19-of-51) from the field, while the Panthers hit on 36% (18-of-50) of their field goal attempts. Ardsley outrebounded Hastings, 36-33, including 12-11 on the offensive glass. The Panthers committed a dozen turnovers, while the Yellow Jackets turned the ball over 11 times. 

Dobbs Ferry 70, Woodlands 26: James McGovern had 24 points, five assists, and three steals for visiting Dobbs Ferry in their season opener in Hartsdale on Feb. 17. The Eagles also received 14 points and eight rebounds from Ryan Brunenavs and 10 points from Ryan Ritch. Harry Dann scored four points, but pulled down a game-high 15 rebounds.

“For most guys, it's been almost a year since they played another team in Section I in anything,” Dobbs Ferry head coach Scott Patrillo said. “So just to be able to compete was huge.” 

Ardsley 53, Edgemont 36: Ardsley had four players score in double figures as they opened the season at Edgemont on Feb. 17. Jackson Garcia led Ardsley with 14 points, while Miles Cooperman scored 13, Nate McFarlane added 12, and Ryan Watson had 10.

“We didn’t play great,” Ardsley head coach Sean Cappiello said. He said his Panthers got off to “a slow start, but were able to cause some turnovers in the second quarter and that allowed us to run and get some easy points.”

Ardsley 58, Edgemont 49: Ardsley completed a sweep of the home-and-home with Edgemont on Feb. 18 behind 17 points from Cooperman, 17 from Garcia, and 10 from McFarlane.

Ardsley led 19-10 after one period and held a 27-21 halftime advantage. A strong third period left Ardsley with a 44-30 lead heading into the final 8 minutes.

“We made a few plays at the end of the third and start of the fourth to pull away,” Cappiello said. “I’m happy with the 2-0 start. We are making a lot of mistakes, which is to be expected in this shotgun-type season.”

Eastchester 48, Ardsley 43: Ardsley suffered their first loss of the season at Eastchester on Feb. 20. Watson had 13 points.

“We jumped out early and then lost our momentum,” Cappiello said. “We made a ton of mistakes and had a ton of unusual — for us — turnovers. Eastchester is very gritty and competitive and plays a lot of guys. I think they wore us down in the middle of the game.”

The coach continued, “We made a bunch of plays late to have a chance, but ultimately we lost the game easily when we failed to make a few relatively simple plays that could have extended our lead.”

Dobbs Ferry 35, Irvington 32: Brendan Smith stepped up for the host Eagles on Feb. 20. Smith had 13 points and eight rebounds as the Eagles improved to 2-0. McGovern had 10 points and five boards, while Sebastien Orlowski added eight points and a 16 boards.

“Both teams played really good defense,” Patrillo said. “We took some time to get comfortable with their 1-2-2 zone and the guys made good adjustments after the half.”

Andrew Brereton led Irvington with 10 points, eight boards. and one block as the Bulldogs fell in head coach David Boykin’s debut. Freshman Christian Davis had eight points, seven rebounds, and two steals in his varsity debut.

“We played decent defense, but we have to continue to improve on executing and limiting turnovers,” Boykin said.

Dobbs Ferry 48, Edgemont 30: The Eagles moved to 3-0 on the season at Edgemont on Feb. 23. Ritch led Dobbs Ferry with 18 points and added three assists, while Orlowski added a dozen points, 16 rebounds, and nine blocked shots.

Team records through Feb. 23: Dobbs Ferry 3-0; Hastings 1-0; Ardsley 2-2; Irvington 0-1

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