WHITE PLAINS — When Khalil Edney spun and looked behind him, his tears of joy turned to tears of sorrow. Mount Vernon had swarmed the court in jubilation. He saw one player, Jakeeme Strugis, doing flips along the baseline. Opposing teammates and coaches tugging on their maroon and gold shirts in celebration.
Here the state-championship-winning quarterback had just swished an improbable 60-footer at the buzzer and he weeped.
“I saw him doing flips and saw that the shot was no good and started crying,” Edney said. “I was shocked that we lost.”
For a few moments, they had and bedlam ensued. Both New Rochelle and Mount Vernon’s celebrations meshed into a big, confused dog pile at center court of the County Center. After initially waiving off the shot, the referees met and determined it counted and that the Huguenots had stunned their archival, 61-60, in a Class AA championship that will live forever.
Edney’s heave and the 30 points and seven rebounds from MVP Joe Clarke continued New Rochelle High School’s remarkable year. Those two and fellow senior Terrence Holden were central in the football team’s state championship last fall, but this even topped that.
“This is No. 1 over the state championship, over the Shaker game and the Pine Bush game, and the last Mahopac game,” Clarke said, rattling off both teams greatest feats. “This is No. 1.”
New Rochelle (13-9) reached Sunday’s final despite entering the playoffs at .500 but seemed like a team that spent its last miracle midway through the fourth quarter.
Mount Vernon — a two-time defending state champ and winner of a boys’ tournament record seven straight sectional titles — led 59-49 after a basket by senior Jalen David with 3:52 to play. The Knights (19-2) uncharacteristically succumbed to to pressure and were held without a field goal the rest of the way.
Their lone point was a free throw by David with 2.9 remaining. After a timeout, Edney heaved a pass toward Clarke — his tight end in football — at halfcourt. David beat Clarke to the ball, tipping it to teammate Devonte Banner.
“When they deflected the ball, I was going to foul,” Clarke said. “Luckily, I didn’t foul because they probably would’ve gone off and made the free throws.”
Banner, a junior, lobbed the ball into the backcourt toward teammate Traquann Scales. A streaking Edney leapt to intercept it and quickly heaved a two-handed shot at the buzzer. It dropped and set off a wild chain of events befitting the moment.
“I just threw it,” said Edney, who finished with seven points after missing Friday’s semifinal against North Rockland with a sprained ankle. “Whether or not I got the shot off or not, I just threw it.”
Initially, official Bill Sacco waived off the shot, igniting the Mount Vernon celebration. Confused New Rochelle fans and players who had stormed the court were irate. But after Sacco conferred with partners Vin Cannizaro and Scott Moroney, the call was overturned.
Both Cannizaro and Maroney believed the shot had been released before the buzzer. Video replays appeared to confirm their call, although officials are not permitted to review replays.
“I heard that it was a good basket from people who watched it,” Mount Vernon coach Bob Cimmino said.
Only the late comeback even made the shot possible. The Huguenots forced Mount Vernon into 30 turnovers, including three in the last minute.
“Going into it, you think you couldn’t do it because they’re such a good program with a great coach,” said New Rochelle coach Rasaun Young through tears. Young is scheduled to appear on ESPN Monday along with Edney.
“Our kids, they believed.”
The loss was reminiscent of Mount Vernon’s stunning defeat at Pace University in the 2009 state regionals when Newburgh’s Will Bouton hit a buzzer-beater from beyond halfcourt shortly after the Knights believed they had won and their fans stormed the court.
“Honestly, it’s not worse to me because it’s New Ro,” said Cimmino, whose team last lost in a Section 1 final to New Rochelle’s Geoff McDermott and Ray Rice-led team in 2005. “It’s just season-ending and our seniors don’t get to go out with the gold ball. That’s why it’s worse.”
The trophy seemed almost like an afterthought for the Huguenots, who will face Section 4’s Binghamton at 4 Tuesday in the state regional semifinals a Purchase College.
Young, the first-year coach, didn’t know who, when or where his team would play next. In the wake of the type of moment this old arena had never seen before, that wasn’t what he cared about most.
“These kids are champions,” Young said