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Pearl River Boys Basketball Adjusts, Rallies Past Nyack

The Pearl River boys basketball team followed a frustrating loss to Harrison Monday by struggling through the first half of Wednesday's home game against Nyack, trailing by one at the break.

The Pirates made a series of adjustments at halftime and took back control of the game in the third quarter, pulling away for a 57-45 victory.

"Monday's game was tough all round," Pearl River senior forward Kevin Degnan said. "Everybody struggled. Especially me. It was definitely great to get a win here against a league opponent. Coach really got on us at halftime. (He said) now it's our turn to play and forget about the past and move on."

"It was good to get a win," Pearl River Head Coach Jerry Houston, Jr. said. "The first half got ugly and we were spinning our wheels a little bit. This is life in Rockland County. You are playing good teams. Everybody does homework. Everybody plays hard. I know it's a cliche, but there are no givens."

One change the Pirates made was a switch to a zone defense, allowing Degnan to be a shot-blocking and rebounding presence in the middle. That helped Pearl River adjust to matchup problems created by Nyack's ability to get to the basket. 

"I think we did great in that," Degnan said. 

"They are small, and as a result, they can sometimes pose matchup problems," Houston said of Nyack. "They really have three guys who can get to the basket. Not just penetrate, but finish. (Barry) Battle, (Jahmi) Henry (and Ethan) Smith, those are three legit players who can drive to the basket and finish around the basket. They also got to the offensive boards pretty hard.

"When you keep seeing the same thing over and over, you get acclimated to it, so I felt maybe it was time to change things up a little (defensively.)"

Houston said the improved defensive play and rebounding allowed the Pirates to get in transition more. 

"I think we pushed the ball more," Houston said. "Our three-point opportunities came out of transition rather than half-court, five-on-five. We did a better job looking ahead and passing the ball up the floor. The tempo of the game, there was more of a flow. The first half was very, very choppy."

Nyack took its final lead of the game at 28-27 on a third-quarter 3-point shot by Smith, who led the Indians with 13 points. The Pirates responded with an 11-0 run including consecutive 3-point shots by Degnan and Thomas Armour. The lead grew to 10 before Henry's three-pointer in the final seconds of the third quarter cut it to 38-31. 

Nyack got as close as four points down on a 3-pointer by Eamen Burns, but Pearl River responded another run. James Linnane, who was saddled with foul trouble in the first half, scored a basket and added a three-point play to push the advantage to 48-36. From there, the Pirates did most of their scoring at the free throw line as the Indians were forced to foul. Pearl River made 18 of 28 free throws in the game, including eight of 16 in the final two minutes. 

Degnan led the Pirates with 21 points. Jack Byrnes had 14 and Armour added 10. Linnane and Jack McKeever each had seven. Degnan, Armour and Byrnes had been the only ones to score in the first half, but the Pirates had better balance as the game went on. 

"That was a huge thing," Houston said. "We challenged them at halftime. The other guys have to step up and score. I thought the guys really did."

"Tom Armour, Jack (Byrnes), Jimmy, they played great," Degnan said. "Jack McKeever played well today."

Pearl River (7-4) will play at Nanuet 5:30 p.m. Friday. Nyack's next game is not until next week, 4:15 p.m. Tuesday at Nanuet. 

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