During Edgemont’s 0-5 stretch to open the season, senior Sam Feldman and junior Mike Ferrante proved to be a major force offensively for the boys basketball team. While that has continued over the last four games, other teams have been keying on the duo, making way for teammates to step up to help the team to three wins in the four games.
A day after the team’s first in-season practice, Edgemont won its first game of the season against Port Chester. The Panthers followed that up two days later with a narrower win over Port Chester and two and four days after that split a series with Sleepy Hollow, with both games decided by two points.
Following the winless start, the team’s confidence is building with a 3-6 record that could have been over. 500 had a couple of games not slipped away.
“Coach [Lowell] Robinson and I have talked like a thousand times how if we have ample practice time and ample rest between games we could be darn close to undefeated really,” coach Craig Moses said. “I’m encouraged to see the team trending in the right direction. They’re firing on all cylinders heading into playoffs next week.”
The wins have been exactly what the team needed. “I think with the ups and downs of that five-game stretch, having a day to practice and coming back and getting a really decisive win like that really instilled some confidence in these kids to start to turn the corner,” Moses said.
As Feldman and Ferrante are now a known quantity, other Panthers are stepping up as opposing teams look to shut down the team’s top consistent scorers.
In the 54-32 win over Port Chester on Feb. 25, Ferrante scored 15, Feldman 13, but senior Jordan Mensah stepped up with a big game, adding 13 points of his own.
“Jordan has been one of our best rebounding presences from the beginning,” Moses said. “He’s a big, strong, athletic kid and he has a lot of potential. As long as he continues to keep focusing on his fundamentals — boxing out, rebounding, making good decisions on the offensive end — his opportunities are going to keep coming.”
The Feb. 27 rematch was tighter, with Edgemont winning 56-47. Feldman scored 12, Ferrante eight, and this time junior Matt Gallousis made his mark with 12 points, while junior Sam Apeatu scored six, Mensah five.
“While it was a closer game and Port Chester definitely came in more prepared the second time, I think we played very, very consistently throughout and we got really strong showings from some places that were a little different this time,” Moses said.
Gallousis carried his big play over into the first Sleepy Hollow game on March 1, leading the team with 14 points in a 53-51 loss. Ferrante scored 12, Feldman nine, while this time junior Samir Mansouri put up eight key points.
Over the first three games of the stretch, senior Chase Feng pitched in with five, four and five points, respectively. He missed last year due to an ACL injury.
“Unfortunately due to COVID circumstances, Chase’s rehab was cut short and interrupted,” Moses said. “His battle back to where he is now has been a tough one for him and I know every opportunity he gets he’s going to make an impact. I can’t say enough about what he brings whether he’s getting 25 minutes a game or whether he’s getting four minutes. He’s the epitome of the team player. He’s always supporting his teammates and wants to help the team win.”
Starting center Gallousis had a key play in the first Sleepy Hollow encounter, making a steal and scoring a layup to make it a two-point game with 20 seconds left. It gave the Panthers an opportunity to win, though Sleepy was able to keep the lead.
“I’ve been really pleased the last two games with Matt Gallousis,” Moses said. “Matt has really been stepping up defensively for us in ways that I put him up there with some of the better defensive players easily in our area right now.”
That type of play — and scoring — has been key for Edgemont, especially when Port Chester learned in the first game how important it was to try to take Ferrante and Feldman out of the game.
“Between Mike and Sam they’re not going to sneak up on anyone anymore with their scoring,” Moses said. “As teams start to gear up for them there are lots of other opportunities for other guys to step up and Matt has done a really nice job in that role. He’s rebounding, doing the fundamentals and playing really good individual and help defense, which has been giving us a huge lift. He’s been able to hit some open shots and get himself to the free throw line a little bit. It’s been a huge lift for us the last couple of games.”
Playing teams back to back is unique this season and presents a “double-edged sword,” according to Moses.
“As much as we’re learning about them, they’re learning just as much about us,” he said. “Playing back to back, as long as there’s a practice in between, I feel really good about having that time to be able to put in some things that might be a little different to surprise the other team, as well as just being able to look and evaluate how the other team did and what their strengths are and how we can start to take those away.”
Moses enjoys the opportunity to have a strategic battle with the opposing coach. Moses saw from film in the first Sleepy Hollow game that a majority of the opposing team’s baskets were scored in transition, so he worked with his team on getting back on defense quicker to eliminate the fastbreak with hopes of splitting the season series.
“It’s a really fun challenge for me because it’s like I get to go toe-to-toe with the other coach at times to see exactly where I can find some advantages,” he said. “It’s been interesting and fun. Seeing teams back to back has also given the players an opportunity to come out with a vengeance, which is what I’m hoping for in our rematch with Sleepy Hollow.”
In the rematch with Sleepy Hollow on March 3, the Panthers got their revenge and they got a new weapon in Mansouri, who exploded for 17 points in the final three quarters, including nine in the second, his biggest performance of the season. Much like Gallousis had provided in the previous two, it was the boost the team needed as Feldman put up another 14 and every point counted from Ferrante (eight), junior Andrew Knecht (seven), Gallousis (six), Feng (two) and junior Chris Yang (two).
“Samir’s the type of kid who has always worked hard in practice and I had the opportunity to watch him on JV for a couple of years,” Moses said. “He’s been working his butt off in practices and despite limited practice opportunities I’ve told all the players to be ready when your moment comes, when you’re number is called. When we’ve called Samir’s number he’s stepped up.”
Mansouri hit a clutch three-pointer to put the team ahead in the fourth quarter and drained a pair of free throws to put the game away.
“As I told him and the team last night, Samir definitely had ice water running through his veins,” Moses said. “He really stepped up in such a huge way in such a clutch moment. With guys keying in on Mike and Sam we needed someone to step up and he came through in a big way. I’m looking forward to him continuing to play a huge role for us going forward and down the stretch.”
There are also performances that don’t go as noticed, like Andrew Knecht giving “valuable minutes” off the bench, and Gallousis again was a major presence against Sleepy. After getting banged up early in the game and sitting out during the second quarter, when he came back in the game it was a big swing for the Panthers with him playing inside.
After the rematch with Sleepy Hollow, Edgemont had three games left on the schedule, but Irvington canceled due to quarantine and Palisade Prep may be over its contest limit, so Moses is exploring other options. The Panthers do have Rye Neck set for Thursday, March 4, but that could turn out to be the team’s final regular season game.
The postseason begins March 10 with regional quarterfinals and with the resilience the team has shown in the second half, Moses is even more excited about the team’s potential.
“As much as I do want to get the games in and I know it would mean so much to the kids, I’m actually relatively appreciative we may have some practice days before we go into our playoff game,” Moses said. “It’s definitely unprecedented, something we’ve never seen. I really do believe when I looked at how they broke up the leagues and the brackets it’s going to be really competitive. I think there’s a lot of parity. I think it will be competitive and anyone who comes out with their best effort on any given night can win it. I think it will be really exciting.”