by Gabby Ripka
The Byram Hills Boys Varsity Basketball Team is always a contender for the coveted Section 1 Gold Ball and this year was no different. At the beginning of the season, LoHud ranked them as the number three team in the section. With returning LoHud Super 7 standouts, Ben Leff and Willy Samsen, Byram was a team with a target on its back the whole year. The team was loaded with talent which included players such as Mike Kalian, Mike Caporale, Sam Goldman, Jonathan Trongone, Mike Parotta, and Matteo Sinon to name a few.
Beginning of Season: The beginning of the season started out strong for the Bobcats as they won their first two games of the season against Tuckahoe and Brewster in a competitive Lakeland tournament. Ben Leff was awarded the MVP of this tournament for his outstanding performance. Byram started off the season 4-0 before taking their first two losses of the season to Ridgefield and Iona Prep.
Slam Dunk Tournament: The boys had the chance to play in front of an electric crowd in the County Center for the annual invite-only Slam Dunk Tournament. After taking a loss to the always-talented Iona Prep squad, they bounced back by beating White Plains. When asked to comment about the feeling of playing in the County Center, Sinon said, “Playing in the county center was a really great experience. The environment is like no other, especially for a high school basketball player. While warming up layup lines, we all had so much adrenaline just because of the atmosphere.”
Middle of the Season: Byram lost a really tough game to their rival Fox Lane but remained at a solid 7-3 before playing what would be arguably their biggest matchup of the year against Rye. The Byram gym was packed to see this sensational matchup between the two star-studded teams. The game was a nail-biter through the fourth quarter, but Mike Kalian’s buzzer beating three-point shot sealed the deal for the Bobcats. The shot he hit was undoubtedly one of the craziest shots in Byram history. Senior Mike Kalian commented on this career highlight by saying, “I heard how loud the crowd had gotten and I knew it went in. I had a great feeling of relief because it wasn’t the best basketball game so to be able to make an important shot like that is special and one I’m going to remember for a while.” Byram fans erupted at this moment and it was definitely one of the greater highlights of the season. It is also the shot that kicked off the intense rivalry between Byram and Rye throughout the course of the 2018-19 season.
End of Season: After Byram’s first win against Rye, they went on to win their next three games against Briarcliff, Eastchester, and Pelham. They took their next loss to a tough Poughkeepsie team. Even though Poughkeepsie traveled from about an hour away, they came in packs creating a thrilling dynamic in the Byram gym. Byram then won their next two games before playing the dreaded Rye game. This game was characterized by extreme controversy from both schools. The boys played through this adversity and greatly-represented the true spirit, culture, and sportsmanship of Byram Hills’ athletes. Although they lost, they never let this adversity phase them and they stayed focused winning the rest of their games in the regular season.
Playoffs: Byram won their first playoff game against Our Lady of Lourdes by a score of 58-43. This game got them one step closer to the gold ball, but they would have to face Rye to get there yet again. At home, in the quarterfinals of the Section 1 Class A Tournament, the Bobcats were ready to take on the challenge. In a hard fought game, Byram ended up taking a loss. Even though this is not the result they desired, they ended their season with a great record at 16-6. BHBVB are always a well-coached and talented team led by Coach Repa. Although they did not get the result they wanted, overall it was a great year for the boys. Go Bobcats!