Punter powers Salesian to CHSAA ‘B’ crown
Bronx native scores 18 of game-high 20 points in second half
By DYLAN BUTLER
Nick Sedia had seen Kevin Punter struggle in the first half before, so the Salesian point guard wasn’t worried when the junior from The Bronx had just two points at halftime of the CHSAA Class B intersectional title game Friday night at Rose Hill Gym in The Bronx.
Salesian coach John Miressi wasn’t alarmed, either. At least not with Punter’s scoring output.
“I was concerned with his movement without the basketball,” he said. “I told him they want you to stay out there, they don’t want you to move. Go up the sideline, take the ball to the basket. Once he goes to the basket, he’s very difficult to defend. He can jump, take that 10-footer, he can knock down that three.”
Punter did just about all of that after halftime, scoring 18 points in the second half to lead the Eagles to a 58-49 victory against Blessed Sacrament as Salesian captured its first ‘B’ title since 1999.
“My teammates believed in me and that’s what counted,” Punter said. “The first half I wasn’t getting a lot of good shots, but in the second half they counted on me and I came through.”
Punter finished with 20 points on 8-of-13 shooting in the second half. The 6-foot-3 athletic junior guard also had five rebounds and four steals. Twice in the second half he went on personal 7-0 runs.
“There’s been a couple of games where he hasn’t done anything in the first half and the second half he just turns it up and makes basket after basket,” Sedia said. “That’s what helped us in the second half to win this game.”
The 5-foot-11 Sedia was a pied piper of sorts, the first of four talented juniors to make an exodus from The Bronx to attend Salesian in New Rochelle.
Punter, Mike Cacciato and Jason Alleyne (16 points) also crossed the border and when that group led the Eagles to the Class B freshman championship two years ago, it was a sign that this team could do some damage on the varsity level.
It’s just happened sooner than Miressi, a 1980 Salesian grad, expected.
“They matured a lot quicker than I ever thought a team would mature and it’s all about timing,” he said. “The timing was right.”
Salesian (20-5) did an excellent defensive job on Blessed Sacrament star David Samuels. The 6-foot-5 senior from The Bronx finished with 17 points, 13 rebounds and five blocks, but was constantly harassed every time he touched the ball.
“Front him on the strong side and make sure the weak side comes behind him,” Miressi said was the game plan to limit the Loyola (Md.) bound standout. “If you hold that kid to 25 points, you’ve done your job.”
And Salesian did its job Friday night. With the core of the team returning, though, it didn’t take long for Sedia’s mind to wander to next year.
“I’m thinking repeat,” Sedia said.