So where does Walter Panas get off being a top-two seed in the upcoming Section 1 Class A playoffs? Where did this come from? When did Danielle Hood and Kerry Sullivan suit up for the Panthers again? Panas veteran Coach Matt Evangelista has the 2017 Panthers playing as good as the days of yesteryear; when Hood and Sullivan were setting school records for scoring and rebounding and regularly putting their teams in position to make hay in the post season shortly after the turn of the century.
And now, more than a decade later, Walter Panas is in prime position to take aim at the school’s first Section 1 girls’ hoops championship in a wide open Class A tournament where just about anyone can win. The Panas boys have won two sectional titles, doing so in 1997 and 2014, but the ladies, despite those aforementioned golden years, have never scaled the last hurdle.
“I can’t say I saw this kind of season coming, but I can truly say that this is the smartest team that I have ever coached,” said Evangelista, who guided the team to a 13-8 record last year. “They listen and try to execute better than any other team I have coached. They work very hard in practice and I have rarely questioned their effort the whole year. They have been a pleasure to coach. I really want them to have a successful run in the playoffs because they are such great kids to coach.”
Maybe the Class of 2017 and friends, which has already made history with the school’s first NYSPHSAA volleyball championship last fall, has some additional magic.
“It’s been a crazy, awesome season so far,” Panas senior Carlyn Mucci said. “We started off the season confidently after last season. I knew the potential was there and so did the whole team. As we got into league play, we knew we had work to do and that winning these kinds of games would finally earn us some respect. I knew this was a special season after winning games we were not expected to win against good teams. We’ve been in a ton of close games and we’ve been pretty good at coming out on top and finishing strong. I’m happy with the way we’ve been playing and connecting this season. Being a senior, it’s awesome to watch our program progressively getting better and it’s even greater being a part of it.”
In a wide open Class A field, current No.1 Somers, No.3 Hen Hud and No.4 Lakeland could pose as potential playoff obstacles for the No.2 Panthers, given the greatness of their respective seasons. Panas added a host of new faces to the roster, which dramatically increased depth and made practice much more competitive. It’s paid dividends, per the coach.
“From the JV, we added freshman Kristen Scrobola and Katherine Reynoso,” Evangelista said. “From the volleyball team, we added Sabrina Patriciello and Yvette Burcescu (a two-time All-American outside hitter). Midyear, Julia Araujo suffered and injury, which led to the call-up from JV of 8th-grader Kristen Cinquina. As this year approached, we had most of our core from the previous season returning. Seniors Melissa Keefe, Carlyn Mucci and Jade Pagel were returning, along with juniors Danielle Merante, Kristen Kelly, Kellie Brown (hurt most of last season) and sophomore Julia Araujo. Basically, our top seven was returning, so we did have high hopes. For the first time in a while, we truly believed that we had 20 games that individually we could win. No one was expecting to go 20-0, but there were no losses that were essentially guaranteed.”
And Friday’s 50-40 win over BREWSTER guaranteed the Panthers a second-place finish in League II-C where Somers copped top honors and Lakeland settled for third. Brewster (8-12), currently seeded No.17 in Class A, saw junior G Maggie DePaoli led all scorers with 20 while Panas F Melissa Keefe added 10…
SOMERS, which has won three of the last four league titles, can flat-out make it rain points. When Liv Lipski starts droppings bombs, the Tuskers are going to be awfully tough to stop, so at this point in time state-ranked (No.13) Somers (15-5), which swept the season series from both Panas and Lakeland, will head into the tournament as the likely favorites after Tuesday’s seeds are released. Lipski, as lethal a shooter as there is in the section, went for 23 points off six 3s in Friday’s 59-50 win over a solid Tappan Zee squad. Hannah Angelini added 13 points and forms a significant part of a supporting cast that does a little bit of everything, which they will need to do at the Westchester County Center; should they be so fortunate to survive the first two rounds.
Teams cannot rely on straight-up jump shooting at the Mecca, where the cavernous confines have, oftentimes, confounded even the most dead-eye shooters. Lipski has the luxury of being surrounded by competence, including Danielle DiCintio, Hannah Angelini and Jackie Penzo, plus a strong supporting cast the provides a mix that might be good enough for the Tuskers to earn their first County Center appearance and challenge for their first gold ball in program history. In what should be a wild ride, there are a host of down-county clubs in the way, too, including Eastchester, Harrison, Rye and Pelham…
HEN HUD, which defeated HALDANE, 43-40, when Sailor Coach Kenny Sherman proudly watched young Kamryn Sherman drill the game-winning 3-pointer, is another local in the mix of Class A title contenders as they enter the tournament as a potential No.3.
Haldane (15-5) is likely to enter the Class C tournament as the top seed, despite having lost, 46-33, to host PUTNAM VALLEY last Wednesday. PV sophomore F Dora Rippon led the Tigers (13-6) with 19 points while Madison Winogradoff added 13 to help the Tigers salvage both a split of the season series and, more importantly, a share of the League III-E title.
“I’m beyond proud of this team,” PV boss Kristi Dini said of the Tigers, currently the No.7 seed in Class B. “They have worked extremely hard for this, and any time you can beat a Haldane and then share the league title with them, you know you’ve done well.”
OSSINING pulled a 91-70 over Gil St. Bernard Saturday, in which senior Andra Espinosa-Hunter drained 48 points and dished assists, doing so in front of her ailing grandmother, who surprised the UConn-bound star in person for the first time on the court during an empowering moment in Ossining hoops history. Simply put, Ossining, gets it done on every level when it comes to girls’ hoops.
“It was something special,” Ossining Coach Dan Ricci said. “Andra’s dad told her he was going to try and get her there, but he wasn’t sure the hospital would allow it. She was not fully aware if she was coming. It was right before the warm-ups ended and most of the team had tears in their eyes and Andra ran over to her. It was an awesome moment for Andra and her family and definitely inspired her to play one of her best games of the season.”
Pride F Kailah Harris, still on the mend, notched 13 points and 15 rebounds while Kelsey Quain added 12 points Jaida Stripoli scored nine points and set up 13 scores.
“This is a great win for us going in to the playoffs,” Ricci said of the likely Class AA No.1 seeded Pride, ranked No.7 in NYS.