With a starting five entirely made up of seniors, the North Rockland boys basketball team wouldn't be a likely canidate to suffer from nerves in its season opener.
But that seemed to be the case early on in the Red Raiders' 57-46 win. The Red Raiders struggled at the line in the first half, hitting only nine of 20 free throws.
"Sometimes they get too pumped," North Rockland coach Chris Roff said. "We played right into their hands."
The benefit of such an experienced roster is their ability to respond, which the Red Raiders did to start the second half, outscoring Nyack 20-6 in the third.
Charles Nardone led North Rockland with 14 points. Melik Payne and Jamelle Lockhart each chipped in 10. Terrence McNair, a transfer from St. Joseph's Regional of Montvale, N.J., had 13 points for the Indians.
"It felt great to be back out there," Nardone said. "It's been too long since we've played in an official game."
After a back and forth first quarter, Nyack held the Red Raiders scoreless for the initial 3:30 minutes of the second. Tight defense paired with strong play from McNair had the Indians leading North Rockland 22-17 with four minutes remaining in the half.
"They're a good team," Roff said. "They are going to give teams fits because they have that athletic ability."
A second half switch to a 2-3 zone by North Rockland proved to be key as the Indians struggled to hit outside shots. Coupled with the Red Raiders running a more patient offense, North Rockland took a 45-28 lead heading into the fourth.
"I think having Elijah Tillman being in the bottom is really intimidating," said Nardone of keeping the Red Raiders' big man at the center of the defense. "We really clogged that hole because McNair was driving to the basket a lot."
Two 3's from Deshawn Rodriguez in the fourth quarter, who finished with 10 points, kept the game interesting as the Indians outscored the Red Raiders 18-12 in the final quarter.
Being able to adapt is something North Rockland will have to be able to do if it hopes to make a deep run in Feburary, something Roff believes is possible.
"The final four; anything less will be disappointing" said Roff of his expectations. "But I don't want to peak now. I want to peak at the end of January."
Roff is already looking to the future. The coach sat Malvin Rosario who is suffering from a swollen knee.
"I'm not worried about him now, I told him I want him playing in January," Roff said. "That's the important time for us."