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As first-year coach Rasaun Young approached the locker room door during halftime of New Rochelle’s matchup with St. Mary’s on Friday night, he heard only one voice coming from inside the locker room. At first, he wasn’t sure who it was. But with the Huguenots trailing by 10 at the break, Young quickly realized who everyone in the room was listening to: Joe Clarke.
“I was outside the locker room and the only person I heard talking was Joe,” Young said. “Joe’s a quiet guy; he doesn’t talk much until he gets upset. I let him finish and I walked into the locker room, and I could see right there that he was going to mean business in the second half. Joe took care of business.”
The all-state football star certainly did, posting 19 of his game-high 29 points in the second half to boost New Rochelle to an exciting 71-64 win over St. Mary’s in the Slam Dunk tournament, earning a spot in Sunday night's final against Stepinac.
Clarke grabbed also grabbed 11 rebounds and scored 12 of New Rochelle’s final 17 points to end the game.
“This win gives us a lot of momentum; instead of being 1-and-5, we’re 2-and-4,” Clarke said. “We’ve been working hard to get our record back to where it should be. We started this game out slow, we didn’t play defense. But in the second half we came played how we should.”
The Huguenots also got a huge boost from another football star, Khalil Edney.
The senior came off the bench and posted an impressive 14 points, 10 rebounds and four steals. At times, Clarke and Edney seemed to be the only two on the court as they combined for defensive stops, rebounds and huge baskets to keep New Rochelle's comeback alive.
“Coach didn’t want us to come out flat in the second half and we didn’t,” Edney said. “We played together tonight. We had some turnovers here and there but obviously we picked up our defense in the second half. This is a spark for our team right now. This is going to be a turnaround for our season.”
Derek Dorn had 16 points in the win, scoring 13 in the first half. Donny Powell, Terrence Holden and Antoine Lewis also had big roles in the win. Powell notched seven assists and three steals, Holden posted four points and two steals in the final 90 seconds, and Lewis added six points.
St. Mary’s led by 10 in the first half but couldn’t match the speed and intensity of New Rochelle in the second. The Gaels had opportunities to win late in the game, but couldn’t find good shots.
“We’re young and our mistakes showed,” St. Mary’s coach Bill Harkins said. “We had a lot of turnovers and our lack of poise showed. We had some decent opportunities late, but I don’t think we even got the stops we needed. We lost some energy. We need to learn from it and move on. My hat’s off to New Rochelle. We have another tough game Sunday; this is a great tournament for us leading into league play.”
St. Mary's 6-foot-10 sophomore Jessie Govan had 24 points and 10 rebounds while Patrick Jackson added 18 points, seven rebounds and five assists. Freshman Devonte Green, who is the brother of current NBA-player Danny Green, had 12 points, seven rebounds and three assists and Stephen Milhaven added 10 points and nine rebounds.
The loss puts St. Mary's in Sunday's consolation game against Mahopac at 1 p.m.
New Rochelle will play Stepinac in the championship at 7 p.m. The games were postponed from Saturday due to a snowstorm expected in the area. The Crusaders will be a tough matchup for New Rochelle, but with the competition the Huguenots have played so far this year, they will be ready for any team.
“The snow helps us a little because it gives us an extra day to prepare, which is great,” Young said. “Stepinac is a very athletic team, they move the ball well and their defense is tenacious. They’re all over the court and they trap; they’re very similar to us, up and down. It should be fun.”