Saunders' season ends in quarterfinal loss to Lourdes
by Adrian Szkolar- www.lohud.com
YONKERS - In many ways, the 2016-17 season was supposed to be a year in transition for Saunders’ boys basketball team.
Following the graduations of Section 1’s Mr. Basketball in Derrick Felder, along with an all-section player in Anthony Miller and all-league player Vaughndras Lennon, the Blue Devils’ look was very different from the core that had led the program to two straight trips to the Section 1 semifinals.
Despite the turnover, the new Blue Devils found themselves in a position to achieve a third trip to the County Center in Thursday’s Class A quarterfinal game against Lourdes.
Inconsistent play, on both the offensive and defensive ends, dogged Saunders throughout and in the end, the fourth-seeded Blue Devils saw their season end in a drama-filled 58-57 loss.
“We knew what we had to do, and we didn’t do it,” Saunders head coach Anthony Nicodemo said. “The one thing I preached to the kids was to not make excuses. I thought (Lourdes) outplayed us, they wanted it more than us.”
With 3.9 seconds left, Saunders, inbounding the ball on the offensive end, had a chance to score the go-ahead basket. The ensuing inbounds attempt to the perimeter was intercepted by Lourdes’ Kevin Townes, and Saunders' last chance was gone.
“Basketball is designed to have games like this,” Lourdes head coach Jim Santoro said. “I feel for Saunders, they played a great game, but it was anybody’s game down the stretch and the ball rolled our way and we were able to capitalize on it.”
After Lourdes took an 18-12 lead at the end of the first quarter, Saunders’ offense began to improve, and the Blue Devils took the lead, 28-24, with 1:30 left in the first half on consecutive baskets from Tyleek Mack and Keyshawn Miller.
Lourdes battled back and took a 31-30 lead into halftime thanks to a buzzer-beating layup from Brady Hildebrand.
Saunders retook the lead out of halftime on a 3-pointer from Jacob Vasquez-Mena, and pushed the advantage to 36-31 after a three-point play from Nick Nolan.
Lourdes managed to crawl back. With 3:51 left in the third quarter, James Anozie hit a putback to tie the score at 38-38, and then hit an inside shot a minute later to give Lourdes back the lead.
In the last 90 seconds of the game, Anozie hit a pair of clutch free throw attempts, and Aiden Hildebrand sunk 1 of 2 free throw attempts to extend the Warriors’ lead.
“It’s a game of little things, the boxing out, the 50-50s, and I don’t think we got those today,” Nicodemo said.
The 6-foot-5 Anozie, one of the top big men in the section, finished with a game-high 22 points, with Hildebrand finishing with 21 points.
“He poses an issue for whoever plays (Anozie),” Nicodemo said. “We did a good job on him, but we didn’t do a good job on the other kid. Hildebrand did some nice things around the post and we played behind him.”
Nolan led Saunders with 18 points. Sean Bresnan added 10 points, while Miller chipped in with nine points.
Lourdes (16-6) will take on top-seeded Byram Hills at the County Center on Wednesday at 8:15 p.m.
Saunders, meanwhile, finished the season with a 16-6 record. With only two seniors graduating, Nolan and Clifford Wamack, there is plenty of reason for optimism for the potential of next year’s squad.
“This particular group of kids, I’ve never had a group dedicated like this. I know that they are going to go to another level now,” Nicodemo said. “The whole team is back. The hope is, they take this and turn it into getting better. But it’s a long offseason.”
Saunders saunters past Pelham into quarters
by John Malone- news12varsty.com
Eight years after Anthony Nicodemo took the helm at Saunders, it’s no longer a surprise to see the Blue Devils make a playoff run. From three-win seasons at the beginning to back-to-back County Center appearances (with losses to Mount Vernon) in the last two years, it’s safe to say that the Blue Devils are here to stay.
But after a player like Derrick Felder graduated, the expectations might have been tempered a bit coming into this season. Save for one thing.
“This is the hardest working team I’ve ever had in the offseason. I’ve never had a team that is this dedicated to basketball. They just don’t stop,” Nicodemo said. “They’ve fallen into their roles and I told anyone that would listen that this team would improve twice as much as usual. Now, 21 games in, we’re still getting better.”
That hard work, dedication, and understanding of roles put No. 4 Saunders in position to make another run at the County Center after knocking off No. 13 Pelham, 57-39, in the Section 1 Class A first round.
Saunders will host No. 5 Our Lady of Lourdes on Thursday at 5 p.m. in the quarterfinals. The Blue Devils are 2-0 in the quarterfinal round under Nicodemo.
“I’ve never had to be as patient as I have to be watching this team grow,” Nicodemo said. “But I think every single time we step between these lines, we get better because of how coachable these guys are.”
Sean Bresnan powered Saunders on Saturday with 21 points, 11 rebounds, two blocks, and three steals. His cohort, Nick Nolan, poured in 17 points and grabbed seven rebounds. He also blocked three shots as the Blue Devils beat the Pelicans in every quarter.
“We’re a young group, so getting a win at this stage really helps us,” Bresnan said. “We’ve all worked hard to fill the void left by the guys that graduated before us. We’re not there fully yet, but I think we’re getting there.”
Saunders built a 26-18 lead at the half in a game that looked like a 2-on-1 battle. Bresnan and Nolan combined for all 26 Blue Devil points and Pelham’s Davis Allen scored 14 of his team’s 18 in the first half.
While Elijah Galloway had six rebounds and Jacob Vasquez-Mena had three assists at the half, the Blue Devils wanted to get others involved offensively.
Vasquez-Mena knocked down an open 3-pointer early in the third quarter to finally get someone else on the scoresheet, and then others started to get involved. Keyshawn Miller hit a nifty scoop shot to end the third quarter, putting Saunders up by 12, their largest margin to that point.
“We need as much help as possible from everyone,” Bresnan said. “Once more people started scoring, me and Nick started doing other things, and we were able to get the win.”
“Sean and Nick have carried our scoring load for a majority of the year, but in our bigger games others guys have done a nice job contributing,” Nicodemo said. “I think that’s why we had a much better second half.”
Vasquez-Mena finished the game with nine points and added five assists. Miller chipped in with seven points, and Galloway finished the day with three points and 13 rebounds.
Saunders pulled away even more in the fourth quarter against Pelham’s press as the Blue Devils were able to get out in transition and push the tempo. Allen led the Pelicans with 23 points and 15 rebounds before fouling out with two minutes to go in the fourth quarter.
“It’s really hard to contain a guy that can score from the perimeter and beat you on the low blocks like that,” Nicodemo said. “We knew he’d get his 20 points, but we needed to shut everyone else down. We know we’ll be able to score 40+ points, so I think we did a good job with that.” - See more at: http://www.news12varsity.com/saunders-saunters-past-pelham-into-quarters-1.1850574#sthash.SaMcr7AM.KCkR6phO.dpuf
Saunders 3-Peats in City
by Rob Heinemann- news12varsty.com
It shouldn’t have been a surprise that Saunders won a pair of city titles the past two seasons given it had a roster that made consecutive appearances in the Class AA final four.
But for a young and relatively unproven group to claim a Yonkers City three-peat this weekend is rather impressive.
“It was really rewarding to see this group of players win the city title,” Saunders coach Anthony Nicodemo said. “They were spectators during the last two and it’s something they really worked hard for. We lost so much to graduation, so the fact that we could win again says something about this groups work ethic.”
One of the few veterans, Sean Bresnan, earned MVP honors after averaging 19 points in three city tournament games. Jacob Vasque-Mena scored 12 in the final, a 58-44 victory over Riverside on Saturday.- See more at: http://www.news12varsity.com/daily-dip-nyack-depth-is-key-
2016-2017 Opponents Announced
Head Coach Anthony Nicodemo has released the opponents for the upcoming 2016-2017 season. Outside of Saunders' ten game league schedule (Roosevelt, Gorton, Riverside, Yonkers and Lincoln) the Blue Devils will face a difficult non-league schedule.
The team will take part in the Harry Jefferson Classic at White Plains High School in December as they play Harrison. They also will travel to Rockland to take part in the LHBCA Coaches vs Cancer Week Tip-Off Classic at Albertus Magnus as they play Spring Valley.
The Blue Devils will head to Jersey City, NJ on December 28 and 30 to participate in St. Anthony's Skyline Classic. Trenton, NJ and St. Joe's Montvale will be the opponents.
Other non-league opponents include Rye, Tappan Zee, Beacon, John Jay Cross-River and Briarcliff. Sites and dates will be determined at a later date.
Junior Sean Bresnan named to BCANY squad
For the second straight summer Saunders will have a representative on the Hudson Valley's BCANY Summer Hoops Festival squad. Junior Sean Bresnan secured a spot on the 10 man roster. Games will be played in Johnson City on August 5-7 and local players will compete with others from throughout the state.
Previously, both Jerrell Benitez and Derrick Felder took part in the event. In 2011 Benitez's team took home the gold medal while Felder earned a silver medal in 2015.
Captain Derrick Felder earns scholarship to Concordia College
Senior captain Derrick Felder capped his remarkable career by signing a national letter of intent to Division 2 Concordia College on April 19. The ceremony took place at Yonkers City Hall as Mayor Mike Spano proclaimed "Derrick Felder Day" in the City of Yonkers. Felder finished his career as Saunders all-time leading scorer with 1382 points.
Felder, Miller lead Saunders Award Winners
The 2015-2016 Blue Devils finished the season with a 16-7 record and several players earned a host of awards for their accomplishments. Sophomore Sean Bresnan and Seniors Vaughndras Lennon, Anthony Miller and Derrick Felder were voted All-League. Both Felder and Miller were also voted All-Section.
Derrick Felder took home the top honor of the year, being named LHBCA Mr. Basketball. In doing so he is the first Yonkers player to take home the award.
by Josh Thomson - www.lohud.com
WHITE PLAINS - Before last year's Class AA semifinal, Saunders last met Mount Vernon early in the 2004-05 season. The Blue Devils lost on their home floor, but the score proved much more memorable than the result: Mount Vernon 104, Saunders 32.
Anthony Nicodemo wasn't the coach then, but the progress since has been exponential. Friday night's semifinal at the County Center — the second straight between Saunders and Section 1's undisputed king — is more proof of the extent to which the Blue Devils have joined the conversation.
"They came in here and just decimated teams at Saunders, so to put us in a spot where we can compete with them, it’s exciting for the school," Nicodemo said. "I think Yonkers people are supporting us because of that."
Saunders played Mount Vernon tough in last year's semifinal before falling 84-74. The teams met again on Jan. 9 in a non-league game at Mount Vernon and produced a similar result, a 62-52 Knights win, but Nicodemo believes his team's chances for an upset have only improved.
"It’s not even close," he said. "We were good last year. We played a good schedule, but not as good as this year. When we got bumped up to (Class) AA two years ago, I said that spring that it was all about playing one team. You have to be as good as Mount Vernon. I told my guys, 'I don't care about the championship.' You can't win the championship in Section 1 without beating Mount Vernon."
And Saunders has been built to this point without modified or junior varsity programs to develop the players. Nicodemo once fielded a varsity roster of 21 players just to keep freshmen and sophomores in the program.
"People tend to talk about the bad things in Yonkers, but not enough talk about the good," he said. "Not one of these kids has played JV basketball, not one of these kids has played freshman basketball, not one of these kids has played middle school basketball. We have the fewest resources of any team in the county, so for us to be in position to play Mount Vernon is a testament to our kids."
The Blue Devils will be in transition after the season because they graduate their three best players: Seniors Derrick Felder, Anthony Miller and Vaughn Lennon. Mount Vernon will be back, but Friday is a special moment in Saunders' once-bleak history.
"We all want to be Mount Vernon," Nicodemo said. "We all want to have that team that wins every year, that has the talent to get to the states. For us, everything I've done to this point built toward this game."
by Dylan Rubenstein - www.msgvarsity.com
It was a matchup you didn’t want to miss.
Fox Lane entered Saturday’s showdown with Saunders undefeated against Section 1 opponents, ranked No. 1 in the latest Bracketology playoff rankings on MSGVarsity.com and on a 10-game win streak.
What started out as an even playing field, ended in an 18-point win from Saunders.
The Blue Devils fended off Fox Lane on Saturday evening, 50-32, at the LHBCA Coaches vs. Cancers showcase at Harrison High School.
“We had the early practices and long practices on defense, and it showed up in the game,” said Saunders MVP senior Anthony Miller, who scored 17 points.
The Blue Devils played even with the Foxes for most of the first half, going into the half down, 19-18. In the third quarter, the Blue Devils’ zone defense flustered the Foxes, holding them to eight points and taking a 34-27 lead into the fourth.
Miller was crucial on both ends of the floor for Saunders, as was senior guard Derrick Felder and sophomore Sean Bresnan. Felder scored 10 points and was so actively defensively while Sean Bresnan scored 11 points, including three second-half 3-pointers.
“We’re seasoned for this game, we’re prepared for this game,” Saunders coach Anthony Nicodemo. “We were in Kentucky, we played teams just like this. I think when you’re at that level and you’re playing that kind of team, having that experience is big. This is just another game for them.”
Fox Lane had beaten all 12 of its Section 1 opponents by double-digits entering Saturday’s game. But the Foxes fizzled in the second half. The Foxes’ inability to get to the basket led to a stretch where they went over eight minutes without a point.
“I think our defense schemes today, they worked,” Nicodemo said. “Sometimes they don’t, sometimes they go the other way. Today they worked. The kids did a good job the second half of dictating the pace of play.”
Although it did not show on the court, the odds were against the Blue Devils today. Derrick “DJ” Felder, the senior star guard, had a stomach virus early in the day and his participation was questionable.
“DJ had a stomach virus or food poisoning this morning, I didn’t know if he was going to play,” Nicodemo said. “The same thing with one of our other kids who didn’t play, so I didn’t know what was coming.”
The win was among the biggest regular season victories in Nicodemo’s time at Saunders and positions the Blue Devils to earn a Top 4 seed in the Section 1 playoffs when the brackets are officially released on Feb. 10.
“We have three league opponents left,” Nicodemo said. “We’re going to continue to grow, continue to get better, and hopefully we can get into the County Center and win a couple of playoff games, and see what we can do from there.”
by Josh Thomson- lohud.com
MOUNT VERNON - Few teams in Section 1 turn the corner more quickly and with more regularity than Saunders. Mount Vernon used that tendency against the Blue Devils in a rematch of last year's sectional semifinal at the County Center. And when they drove, it was usually Jayquan Smith who stood there in wait.
The 6-foot-5, 180-pound Smith had just one basket, but the junior big man made a key sacrifice to earn minutes off the bench. He drew five charges and the Knights baited Saunders into 11 offensive fouls as they pulled away, 62-52, at Mount Vernon High School on Saturday.
"They were overly aggressive and out of control," said Smith, one of only three newcomers who weren't in uniform when the Knights, now 6-3, beat Saunders at the County Center last February. "It's something we practice every day in practice. I just brought it to the game today."
Smith's defensive work helped goad big man Vaughn Lennon and point guard Anthony Miller into foul trouble. Both eventually fouled out and the time they spent on the bench proved costly in a game that was tightly contested until the final minute.
"I had to sacrifice my body for my team," Smith said. "I'll do anything for my team to help us win."
Saunders coach Anthony Nicodemo let it be known afterward he wasn't thrilled with the volume of foul calls against his team, which was whistled for 22.
"The best officials should be working the top games and this was the top game today," said Nicodemo, whose team dropped to 6-4. "It was high-level basketball. There are seven or eight scholarship players out there. These kids deserve that. We got what we got, and you see that at times they dictate the outcome of the game."
Player of the game: Marco Morency, Mount Vernon. The junior guard delivered on both ends of the floor. He scored a team-high 16 points and had five rebounds and three assists and also spent time defending Saunders star Derrick Felder, who finished 4 for 15 from the field.
Turning point: After Mount Vernon had threatened to pull away, Saunders spent the second half climbing back. The Blue Devils were within six points, 51-45, after a Lennon basket. They then forced a turnover and had a chance to pull even closer when Lennon drove through Smith on his way to the rim and was whistled for his fifth foul with 4:04 remaining. Saunders never came any closer playing without the 6-foot-7 senior, who had eight points and six rebounds in limited minutes.
Stat line: Noah Morgan had 14 points, seven rebounds and two blocks for Mount Vernon. Demetre Roberts added 13 points, three assists and two steals off the bench. ... The Knights finished 15 for 18 from the foul line. ... Miller (16 points) and Felder (14) led Saunders in scoring, but the two seniors were just 10 for 32 combined from the field. As a team, the Blue Devils shot just 11 for 40 in the second half after firing at 50 percent in the first half.
Quotable: Mount Vernon coach Bob Cimmino on Smith: "He’s good. He’s talented. I thought at tryouts that he was exactly what I would need if I went shopping and could shop for players off the aisles. Now, maybe I’m right."
By Kevin Devaney Jr. www.msgvarsity.com
The first two games of the season for Saunders sent a rising program crashing back down to Earth. The Blue Devils followed up a 42-point blowout loss to Long Island Lutheran with an agonizing defeat at home to Spring Valley on two free throws in the final second.
“We definitely needed that,” Saunders senior Derrick Felder said. “We had a lot of young guys who hadn’t played minutes before. Once they saw what could happen when we’re not all on the same page and playing hard, the realized.”
Saunders continued to pick up the pieces with another balanced effort on Tuesday. The Blue Devils won their fifth straight, beating previously-undefeated Scarsdale 57-36 at home behind a sweltering defensive effort.
Felder, who guided the Blue Devils to the final four in Class AA last season, led the way on Tuesday with 18 points, 11 rebounds and six steals. Anthony Miller added 15 points, four rebounds, four assists and three steals, Vaughndras Lennon had 10 points and 11 rebounds despite early foul issues, and Nick Nolan scored eight.
Saunders continued to overwhelm opponents defensively, holding Scarsdale to single digits in second, third and fourth quarters.
“We’re a very different than we were last year,” Blue Devils coach Anthony Nicodemo said. “Our defensive average this year, outside of Lutheran, is 39 points. This team does really well with our zone stuff and teams struggle against zone. You saw that today.”
Good shots were extremely hard to come by from a Scarsdale (5-1) team that worked the shot clock and moved the ball efficiently. The Raiders, though, had very few second chances and committed 16 turnovers against an active Saunders squad.
“We had to stay patient in the zone,” Felder said. “Not gambling, not going for steals, closing out hard, rebounding and playing tough. We did that.”
The Blue Devils trailed 11-8 after the first quarter. But a spark from the bench — Niko Potiris and Jacob Vazquez-Mena each hit 3-pointers — as Saunders went into the half ahead 28-20. They broke the game open in the third behind Felder and the return of Lennon, who had all 10 of his points after the break.
“I think the difference (since starting 0-2) is the urgency in practice,” Nicodemo said. “It was difficult but the kids come to practice and realize we have to do things differently now. They can’t be complacent. I think our work ethic has shifted and the results are there.”
Caleb Krohn led Scarsdale with 11 points and Sam Squadron added eight points, five rebounds and three assists.- See more at: http://www.msgvarsity.com/hudson-valley/daily-dip-saunders-gets-defensive-1.1760632#sthash.55Lm2hru.A6tWPM5u.dpuf
by Adrian Skzloar- lohud.com
YONKERS - After starting the season with back-to-back losses, including a heartbreaker against Spring Valley last week, Saunders might be back on track.
Playing stingy defense and forcing several turnovers, the Blue Devils defended their Yonkers City Tournament title on Saturday at Yonkers Montessori, comfortably defeating Yonkers 65-42.
Aside from bragging rights as the top team in the city, Saunders is now on a four-game winning streak.
"It's bragging rights; we won it last year, we won it the year before, and we wanted to stay the best team in the city," senior guard Derrick Felder said. "The Spring Valley loss taught us a lot; we can't take anything for granted, even if you're up by a little bit or a lot. You got to practice harder and play harder, and it's showing in the games."
Saunders led 18-6 at the end of the first quarter, fueled by Anthony Miller's 12 points. The Blue Devils extended their lead to 35-11 by halftime.
"I had a lot of tension in my body, but when I get the ball in my hands, I know I can do something with it," said Miller, a senior guard. "We're turning it up in practice, everything is working out for us."
Yonkers went on a 10-2 run in the fourth quarter to cut the deficit to 56-33, but Saunders' Nico Potiris hit a 3-pointer shortly after to effectively shut down the Bulldogs.
Yonkers is playing in its first season under new head coach Mike Denman and with only four returning players from last year's team. The Bulldogs fell to 5-2.
"I think nerves, big stage and big crowd, we made some crazy passes in the first half," he said. "To be 5-2, if you told me that before the season started and that we'd be in the city final, it's a great accomplishment. Hopefully, this helps us later in the year."
Player of the game: Anthony Miller, Saunders. The 5-foot-9 senior guard did an excellent job running the point, finishing with 18 points. He was named the tournament's MVP.
"It feels good," he said. "My teammates are really great shooters, and I like to get my teammates involved."
Turning point: After Yonkers' Medin Kandic hit a 3-pointer early to give the Bulldogs a 3-2 lead, Saunders' defense went to work, forcing several turnovers. The Blue Devils ran off 11 straight points to take a 13-3 lead and quickly set the tone for the game.
Stat line: Felder had a team-high 20 points for Saunders. Vaughndras Lennon added nine points for the Blue Devils, while Nick Nolan chipped in with eight points, including two 3-pointers. ... Eli Rodriguez paced Yonkers with 20 points, with Kandic adding 17 points.
Quotable: "For the kids, some of them live together in the same building, so to go out and call themselves city champs is a nice achievement for them," Saunders head coach Anthony Nicodemo said. "It doesn't get easier; we have Scarsdale next and we have Poughkeepsie, one of the best teams in Section 9, after that. We're now going to have to go out and understand that we have to play better to beat those te
by Kevin Devaney Jr. www.msgvarsity.com
With just 22 seconds to go on Saturday and Saunders leading by two, Derrick Felder was prepared to go to the free throw line when Uniondale used a timeout.
Felder knew what was at stake. He may have been two points shy of 1,000 for his career. But he understood the Blue Devils were two points away from sealing a much-needed victory.
“We were planning all along to stop the game when he got 1,000,” Saunders coach Anthony Nicodemo said. “But during the timeout, he came to the huddle and yelled ‘Forget 1,000 points. Let’s just go win the game.’ The whole team stopped.”
And the whole team watched as Felder went back to the line and won the game.
The decorated senior guard nailed both free throws, eclipsing the milestone while delivering Saunders its first win, a 55-52 nail-biter with Uniondale as part of the Harry Jefferson Showcase at White Plains High School.
“It was very typical of his career,” Nicodemo said. “He always puts the team first. He’s not really into the fanfare.”
Felder finished with 20 points and eight rebounds, becoming the third boys player in school history to reach 1,000. After Monday’s 70-15 rout of Lincoln in the Yonkers City Tournament — Felder had 16 and Anthony Miller had 18 — Felder is 164 points away from the school record.
Vaughndras Lennon added 18 points and nine rebounds as the Blue Devils bounced back from two tough losses to open the year.
Saunders, which reached the Class AA semifinals last season for the first time in over 30 years, absorbed an 87-45 defeat to national power Long Island Lutheran. The Blue Devils then suffered a gut-wrenching 47-46 loss to Spring Valley on a pair of throws with under a second to play.
Felder, who was hobbled by a preseason injury, missed free throws late in the loss to Spring Valley.
“Coming off the injury, he’s pretty much done what he does,” Nicodemo said. “The Spring Valley loss was just a devastating way to lose. I think it gave everyone a sense of urgency and understanding that we need to execute better. I also think that the much improved play of Anthony Miller and Vaughndras Lennon has allowed (Felder) to play more freely and not have to carry a heavy load.”
Saunders, the defending Yonkers City champs, advanced to the tournament semifinals. They’ll face Roosevelt on Wednesday at Yonkers Montessori for the right to play either Palisade Prep or Yonkers in Saturday’s final at YMA.
- See more at: http://www.msgvarsity.com/hudson-valley/daily-dip-felder-hits-1-000-points-1.1759869#sthash.n8bKUr2F.aCwSBiLJ.dpuf