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Basketball: JS Express Leads Scarsdale in Thriller 

SaigalJayshen Saigal with a stop and pop jumperSSince the new year and the colder weather, Scarsdale has looked like a hot new team.  The Raiders looked to continue their ascent vs. the highly touted Valhalla Vikings at home on January 21st.  The team is coming off a win vs. an 11-4 Dobbs Ferry team and a tough loss on the road to perennial power Mt. Vernon. After a rough month of December, Scarsdale was approaching the .500 mark.  Valhalla entered the game with an impressive 9-3 record. In a game that wasn’t decided until the final eight seconds, the Raiders prevailed 55-53.  Coach Joe Amelio was “pleased with our effort for 32 minutes against a well-coached team who pressures you for the entire game. 

Scarsdale was missing its starting point guard, Matthew Lipsay – who was out with the flu.  The Raiders started Michael Callahan, Dennis Alter, Fisher Waterhouse, and the “JS Express” – Jayshen Saigal and Jacob Smith. 

Saigal started the Raiders off strong – sinking two jump shots a minute into the affair – giving Scarsdale an early lead. Saigal sandwiched a steal in between those baskets.  The Vikings turned to a press within the first few minutes – trying to capitalize on Lipsay’s absence.  The strategy began to pay dividends as the Raiders turned the ball over on consecutive possessions.  Only poor shooting both at the free throw line and from the outside kept the game close.  Compounding Scarsdale’s backcourt woes, Waterhouse was charged with two quick fouls and Raider’s Coach Amelio was forced to bring him to the bench for the remainder of the half. The teams traded 3s – with Alter and Evan Kashanian cashing in for Scarsdale.  Valhalla’s Marlin Wise had a nice 3 point play and the first quarter ended with the Vikings leading by a point.

The second quarter saw Valhalla gain its largest lead of the game – with a five point 20-15 advantage. Saigal also picked up his second foul of the game near the halfway point of the quarter – but he was left in as his maturity would allow him to be extra careful in this area.  He was quite aware of the situation and said: “I knew I had to be very smart for the rest of the game after my second foul.”  As would be for the entire contest, the Raiders battled back, and after a Levi Ring driving layup the lead was cut to one with a little under three minutes left in the half.  Both teams were in the double bonus situation for the remainder of the half and traded free throws.  As the buzzer sounded to end the half, the Vikings were still clinging to a small lead – 25-23.   JacobSmithJacob Smith striving for 2 of his 23 points.

The Raiders began the second half like a house on fire: marked largely by the emergence of Jacob Smith as a force in the contest.  Smith, in his first start all season and playing for his ill captain Lipsay, began his assault on the Viking’s basket.  The junior guard took over the game for about three and a half minutes – sparking a 13-4 run.  First, he drove for a layup and followed that with a rebound on the defensive end.  Around a minute later and after a Saigal jumper gave Scarsdale a one point lead, Smith hit consecutive three pointers within 10 seconds and suddenly Scarsdale’s lead swelled to a game high seven. The Raiders did a fantastic job breaking the Viking press in this quarter – through great passing and a strong transition game. As was de riguer for the entire affair, Valhalla climbed right back into the game. Both teams played tight defense and the third quarter ended with Scarsdale leading by three points – 36-33.

As the final quarter began, both teams saw victory within its grasp.  Valhalla scored two quick baskets and with a Raider turnover, took its final lead of the game with about five minutes to play.  Saigal picked up his fourth foul of the game and faced fouling out with only one more infraction.  With 3:42 left in the game, Waterhouse put up a three pointer and was fouled. At the same time the Vikings were called for a two-shot flagrant foul.  With five free throws coming up, the Raiders could have put a lot of space between them and Valhalla.  However, Waterhouse and Saigal only converted two of the shots - and Scarsdale led by a single point.

After a stop on defense, Alter nailed a three pointer.  The Vikings then climbed back to tie the game at the 2:32 mark.  On the next possession Saigal put back a rebound and was fouled.  After converting the free throw Scarsdale led by three with 2:13 left.  Alter made a great block on the Viking’s driving layup with about 1:40 to play.  The teams traded possessions until Jacob Smith came up big again for Scarsdale.  With a little over a minute to play, Smith stole the ball from the Valhalla guard, drove for a layup, and scored.  However, he was fouled hard on the play and his leg was balky.  He left the game with a team-high 23 points.  Ring hit the free throw for the injured Smith and the Raiders led by six.  Valhalla refused to go quietly – seeing Wise hit a long three with 50 ticks left.  The chaotic last minute continued as Valhalla’s press prevented Scarsdale from inbounding the ball – a five second penalty gave the ball back to the Vikings under the Raider basket.  After Alter’s foul led to two Viking free throws, Scarsdale was clinging to a one point lead with 32 seconds left.  Waterhouse missed a jumper and Valhalla called a time out after its rebound.  With the 35 second shot clock turned off and a chance to win the game, Valhalla’s James McAndrew’s long jumper was off the mark. Alter grabbed the rebound with eight seconds remaining and was quickly fouled.  He hit one of his two free throws – and the Raiders had a slim two point lead.  Valhalla’s final gasp came as a long three pointer fell harmlessly in Alter’s hands.  

CallahanRaiders Callahan fights through the defense.Saigal had a strong all-around game scoring 17 points on 6-15 shooting from the field and 5-7 from the line.  He also had 8 rebounds, 5 blocks, 2 assists, and a steal – continuing his strong senior season.  Smith’s breakout performance was also fabulous from every side and featured 23 points on 7-10 shooting including two threes and 10 assists – missing a triple double by only three rebounds. Commenting on Smith’s performance, Amelio said: “Jacob is really turning the corner and is a huge asset when he is aggressive like today.”  Smith was elated after the game and said: “we are coming together as a team very well and playing with a lot of energy.”  Scarsdale’s playoff drive continues Friday, January 24th at Greeley.

Photos by Jon Thaler. See more here.

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