Haldane Drops Heartbreaker in Title Game

Blue Devils upset for second year in a row

The points that came easily for No. 1 Haldane early became nearly impossible to find late in Saturday’s Class C championship game at Yorktown High School.

Tristen Reid

Tristen Reid gets to the basket late in the game. (Photo by S. Pearlman)

The second seed, Alexander Hamilton, shook off a slow start and dodged a bullet at the end to break the Blue Devils’ hearts with a 53-51 win.

It was the second year in a row that Haldane lost a heartbreaker in the tournament. In March 2021, the top-seeded Blue Devils were 10-0 when they hosted No. 5 Lakeland in the Putnam-Northern Westchester playoffs for smaller schools. Lakeland won, 51-50, on a desperation three-pointer that banked in with 1.5 seconds left.

Haldane (19-3) jumped out of the gate with energy and built a 15-2 lead with 3:12 left in the first. But a 15-4 Hamilton run made it a one-point game, and things stayed close from there.

Haldane (19-3) jumped out of the gate with energy on Saturday, building a 15-2 lead with 3:12 left in the first. But a 15-4 Hamilton run made it a one-point game, and things stayed close from there.

Hamilton took its first lead, 28-27, in the second, and the game was tied at 37-37 at the end of three. The Raiders had a three-point lead with 6:00 to play, and upped the lead to five with 4:04 left.

A pair of free throws by Chris Ward gave Hamilton a 53-48 lead with 12 seconds left, but Haldane’s Robert Viggiano answered quickly with a clutch three from the corner to make it 53-51 with 3.8 seconds remaining.

Ward was fouled and sent to the line with a chance to extend the lead to four. But a pair of missed free throws left the door open for Haldane, and junior guard Matteo Cervone was fouled on a desperation three-point attempt with 0.3 remaining. But he missed the first two free throws, and was forced to miss the third, which the Raiders rebounded to end the game.

Matteo Cervone

Matteo Cervone gets to the rim against Hamilton. (Photo by S. Pearlman)

Jaylen Savage had 22 points and was named Tournament MVP for Hamilton (17-5), which moves on to face Section IX champion Chester on Wednesday (March 16) in a regional semifinal at Yorktown High School.

Viggiano had 14 points for Haldane, and Haldane’s All-Section duo of Cervone and Soren Holmbo were limited to 13 and 12 points, respectively.

“That was one of the tougher losses we’ve had,” said Coach Joe Virgadamo. “I feel so badly for the guys; they had high hopes of bringing home a title. But they gave it all they had, so we have no regrets.

“Our defensive intensity was great,” he added. “We held them to 19 in the first half. They doubled and focused on Matteo, but we’ve had balanced scoring all year. We valued the ball and had some good opportunities.”

“We came up just short,” said senior captain Ryan Irwin. “We worked so hard all year for this. This is not the way we wanted to come out of it. We never thought this would happen; we thought we were the better team.

“Our transition in the beginning was working well,” he added. “Then when the threes weren’t falling, we were trying to work the ball inside, and it just wasn’t working for us. But this was a great year, and this is a great group of guys. I love them all, and it’ll be sad to go. But I’ll always remember this.”

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