By MIKE SMITH
On Feb. 26, the Harrison Huskies made their first postseason appearance at the County Center in 65 years when they took on top-seeded Eastchester in the Class A semifinals.
Despite entering the game as heavy underdogs, the Huskies acquitted themselves quite well in a hard-fought 56-51 loss. Although the trip to the County Center didn’t end in a section crown, head coach Gary Chiarella was impressed with the way his team stood up to the Eagles’ offensive onslaught.
“I told the guys I was proud of them,” he said. “Before the game, we talked about trying not to be nervous and doing everything we could that when we left we were proud of what we did, and the kids did all of that.”
With just a minute left to play, Huskies senior Coby Lefkowitz hit a bucket to make the score 51-49, but the Eagles’ foul shooting never let the Huskies get closer as they were able to maintain the lead the rest of the way to hang on for the win.
The Huskies trailed by nine after the first half, but some halftime adjustments helped Harrison limit the Eagles offensively to start the third, holding Eastchester’s run-and-gun style to just six points in the quarter.
“We decided to come out in a straight man-to-man,” Chiarella said. “You have to play up on these guys, otherwise they’re going to come out shooting and we did just that.”
Harrison keyed on Eagles’ senior Jack Daly, limiting him to just two baskets from the field, but Daly finished with 14 points—coming mostly from the foul line—as well as nine rebounds and seven assists.
“The tough part is he’s so crafty, he’s a veteran,” Chiarella said. “That’s how he was able to get to the line so much.”
Harrison, on the other hand, shot just 50 percent from the charity stripe, but had one of its top shooting days from the floor, hitting at around the same percentage. Nick Esposito led the team with 13 points, while Lefkowitz contributed 11 of his own.
“We’ve had days like this before, we’ve had some incredible shooting days,” Chiarella said. “The thing is, we don’t rely on one guy so there’s not that pressure on any one player to score.”
Despite losing six seniors to graduation, Chiarella believes the Huskies will have a similar make-up next year as players like Zac Evans, Joe Nannariello, Justin Stagg, Dustin Hart and Kyle Davidoff —who missed this season with an injury—will all return.
“As long as we can figure out the point guard situation, we’ll be alright,” Chiarella said. “I expect to have the something similar to what we had this year with all five guys on the court having the ability to score.”
For now, though, Chiarella is content to look back on the 2013-14 season as one of the finest in Harrison’s history.
“From day one, this has been the most focused squad I’ve ever had,” he said. “We never had to do anything to get them going in practice; this was a great, self-motivated bunch of players.”