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Raiders Start Play-offs With Dominant Performance

BballMillerSurprise starter Sophomore Hunter Miller scoring his first Scarsdale basket. Photo by Jon Thaler.A popular idiom in sports parlance is that the playoffs represent a “second season” for all teams – everyone holds a 0-0 record as the playoffs begin. On February 15, the Scarsdale boys’ basketball team hosted the John Jay East Fishkill (JJEF) Patriots in an afternoon affair designated as a “play-in game” for the right to continue next weekend. Faced with a possible premature end to their season, the Raiders started the second season as a revived team. Scarsdale fully realized the importance of the game, as co-captain Saigal said: “This was a do or die game.. we need to show up or have our seven seniors’ careers end.”

Scarsdale was coming off a six game losing streak to end the regular season and was looking to salvage its campaign. On the coldest day of 2020, Scarsdale brought heat and responded to the challenge with a complete performance on both ends of the court – defeating the Patriots by a convincing 67-50 score.

Raiders coach Joe Amelio wasted no time in using all of his weapons. His first move was to insert sophomore JV call-up, center Hunter Miller, in the game in the first minute. Miller, who had all of two varsity practices going into the game, made an immediate impact with his presence, and energized the Raiders early on. Coach Amelio said: “We know what we are going to get from Hunter every game – hard work and a “physicality” that will make a difference.” Miller called the entire experience “surreal going from JV.” Senior Dennis Alter set the tone early for the Scarsdale attack – pumping in two three pointers and an additional basket – notching eight of his 11 points in the first quarter.

For the 2020 season, much of the Raiders’ fortunes have risen and fallen with the efforts of “all-everything” and recent Lehigh University commit, Jayshen Saigal. Saigal was coming off two lackluster performances and was playing in his last home game. After getting in foul trouble early and fouling out in the previous two games, Coach Amelio had Saigal in a better mind-set, and Saigal showed his poise – adding five points and no fouls in the opening quarter. Amelio said that this was a key part of their pre-game preparation and that the coaching staff had spoken with Jayshen about the importance of playing smart defense.

Saigal’s momentum continued during the second quarter – and marked the beginning of Scarsdale’s control of the game. He led the Raiders’ with an 11 point explosion hitting two threes midway through the quarter, extending their 19-11 lead. Saigal’s shot was on point virtually the entire afternoon. After the game he said: “I prepared for this game and showed up early today and took extra shots.” Miller, who said after the game: “I didn’t know I was going to play in the game and I took what I could get,” received much deserved additional minutes. Together with Michael Callahan, he kept the Patriots in check – only allowing nine points in the quarter. When the horn sounded for the half, Scarsdale nearly doubled its advantage and took a commanding 35-20 lead into the locker room.

The Raiders’ offensive assault continued at the beginning of the third quarter. Alter and point guard Matthew Lipsay hit three point WaterhouseWaterhouse with a leaping block.shots – largely set up by the penetration by Fisher Waterhouse. Saigal then added a driving basket. With five minutes left in the third, the Scarsdale lead swelled to 19. The Raiders then had their only lapse of the game, and JJEF had a 3 minute, 10-3 run, cutting the raider lead to 12 – 46-34 with 1:30 to play in the quarter. At that point Saigal stepped in – hitting threes on consecutive possessions and bringing the packed stands to its feet. Waterhouse ended the quarter with a fantastic drive and basket with seconds left – and the Raider lead was back at a very comfortable 19 going into the final quarter.

The Patriots, however, weren’t done yet, and made one last run at the start of the final quarter. JJEF was in the double bonus and made their free throws count. Patriot big-man Gainer – a presence all game – got to the line and connected frequently. With six minutes to play, the Raider lead had shrunk to 12 with JJEF trying to wrest the momentum from Scarsdale. As JJEF’s Gainer went for a basket in the paint, Miller made a fantastic block – keeping the lead at 12. Waterhouse then put on a free throw shooting clinic – hitting five out of six attempts midway through the quarter. Lipsay and Waterhouse controlled the ball most of the next few minutes. With a little over a minute left, and the outcome no longer in doubt, both coaches emptied their benches and the Scarsdale seniors received a standing ovation from the highly partisan packed crowd. As the clock wound down to 0:00 the Raiders walked off victorious 67-50.

The Raiders now must face their most difficult task of the season: traveling to Suffern next Saturday to play the number one rated 17-3 Mounties. Coach Amelio said of Suffern: “They are a very well coached team… [led by] back to back coach of the year Scott Wright. We will be in a hostile environment and plan on preparing as such.” Whatever the outcome, the Raiders have had a fine season, and as Amelio said: “We have had a “positivity” all season no matter what adversity we faced.”

JaysonJayshen Saigal hitting one of five threes and 24 points.

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