WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. – It looked like New Rochelle’s season was over.
The Huguenots trailed, 34-24, with 1:30 left in the third quarter of Friday’s Section 1 Class AA semifinal game at the Westchester County Center. New Rochelle could not hit an outside shot and was struggling at the free throw line.
And that’s when Joe Clarke had had enough.
The spectacular senior received a drop-off, behind-the-back pass from Donny Powell and took a 25-foot shot from outside the three-point arc as the buzzer went off at the end of the third quarter. The ball hit nothing but net.
“Coach told me not to shoot it, obviously,” Clarke said with a chuckle. “I just wanted to come out and I knew I could hit the big shot. So I just wanted to catch it, set up and knock down the shot.”
Clarke finished with 20 points, nine rebounds, seven blocks and four steals to lead the comeback and New Rochelle advanced to the Class AA finals with a 47-42 win. The Huguenots ended the game on a 23-8 run after the 1:30 mark of the third quarter.
Clarke started to cramp up in the fourth quarter, but he looked into the eyes of head coach Rasaun Young, his godfather, and told him he wasn’t coming out of the game.
“This is my senior year and if we’d have lost this game cause I cramped up and didn’t play, I’d have taken the blame for this,” Clarke said. “So I just wanted to play throughout the cramps, throughout everything, and that’s what I did.”
After the game, Young took a deep breath and a 10-second pause before he finally attempted to explain the comeback, and his godson’s determination, through tears of joy.
“That’s Joe Clarke,” Young said. “I don’t know what to say about the kid.”
New Rochelle got Mahopac big man Brendan Hynes into early foul trouble, and he eventually fouled out with about two minutes left in the game. His absence was crippling for the Indians, and much of New Rochelle’s comeback occurred with him on the bench.
New Rochelle High School legend, current Baltimore Ravens running back and Super Bowl champion Ray Rice, sat courtside to watch his former team take on Mahopac. Rice played on the 2005 Huguenots basketball team, the only one to defeat Mount Vernon in the finals. The Knights have won 12 of the other 13 section titles since 2000.
Rice did more than watch on Friday. At halftime, he told Clarke that he had to pressure the guards more. And as far as Young is concerned, Rice is welcome to offer some advice at every game.
“Ray did it,” Young said. “What he says is golden, and the kids respect him. They look up to him. He’s a great role model for New Rochelle and all kids. But for him to tell you something, like he said pressure the guards, I‘ve been telling them that all week. But Ray Rice says it, it’s golden.”
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