WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. – The Children’s Village boys basketball team is the top seed in the Section 1 Class C tournament, but some viewed the Hawks’ opponent on Monday, the No. 5 Tuckahoe Tigers, as the favorite to win.
Tuckahoe won the state title last season and played much tougher competition this season, as it did not schedule any games against Class C or D teams.
None of that mattered Monday, as the Hawks continually stretched their lead and earned some revenge against Tuckahoe in a 64-51 victory.
“They knocked us out last year, so we came determined this year. We came ready and we just came hard to play,” said Children’s Village senior guard Rafiq Shaheed. “We worked hard all season for this. And this Saturday, we’re going to go to the (championship) and we’re looking on taking it home, cause we ain’t trying to pack up our bags.”
Children’s Village will face No. 2 Palisades Prep in the finals at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Westchester County Center in White Plains. The Phoenix beat No. 6 Haldane in the other semifinal game Monday.
Shaheed and Andre Jones were instrumental in the Hawks’ win. Every time Tuckahoe would close the gap, one of those two would hit a clutch shot to extend the lead and keep the Tigers at arms length.
Children’s Village led 47-44 with 4:50 left in the game, and it seemed as though Tuckahoe would take the Hawks to the final possession. But Shaheed popped a three-pointer and added another bucket at 1:22 to stretch the lead to eight points, and the Hawks rolled to victory.
“We had to keep the lead because in the locker room, coach (Michael Graves) is big on when we’re up, we have to stay up,” Shaheed said. “No matter what we’ve got to, just stomp on their necks and keep the pressure going. And we did well doing that.”
Tuckahoe did face Children’s Village this season because of the Tigers’ grueling schedule. Head coach Al Visconti said after the game that the rough season prepared the Tigers for the tournament.
“It helps when you play better competition, and I thought we gave them a good shot,” Visconti said. “But hats off to them. They’re a talented team.”
Kayvon Reid, Shyheim Nixon, Nick Reisman and Brian O’Toole were the four seniors on Tuckahoe’s roster this year. After the thrill of a state title last season, the group’s final year ultimately ended in disappointment.
“It’s hard because Shyheim’s been with me for five years, Brian, Nick, they’re always champions in my eyes,” Visconti said. “What they’ve done on the baseball field, the football field, the basketball court ... .
“And I told them not every coach likes every player and every team, but I really like my team. And that’s probably the biggest disappointment, that tomorrow there’s no practice and I won’t see these guys as a group anymore. So that’s really the heartbreaking part.”