Pride’s Espinosa-Hunter Named NYS Player of Year
Class A SOMERS and Class AA OSSINING have survived and advanced to the NYS Final 4.
After a 44-39 win over Section 4 champion Vestal in the NYS Class A Region 1 championship last Saturday at Pace University, state-ranked (No.10) SOMERS (20-5) is headed to its first NYSPHSAA Final 4 this Friday, and will be preparing all week long for a 3:15 p.m. tipoff against the No.1 ranked team in the state, undefeated Pittsford Mendon (24-0), at Hudson Valley Community College in Troy.
The Tuskers relied on the sharpshooting skills of junior wing Liv Lipski (13 points) in the first half and the ferocious play of sophomore G Hannah Angelini, who led all scorers with 24 points, in the second half when Somers ramped up its defensive intensity to turn the game around.
“We went to a 3-2 zone with Livy (Rosenweig) on the top, and having her out there is like having three people on top,” Somers Coach Marc Hattem said. “I just asked the girls to be as tough as they can. We’re all underclassmen going against a senior-laden team over there, and the girls listened to me tonight. It was just a monster defensive effort in the second half.”
The Tuskers would have gone home early if not for Lipski’s hot hand in the first half, the spirited leader hitting four times from downtown while Somers struggled for traction in the early going against a veteran Vestal team making its third-straight trip to the regional finals.
“Liv Lispki has been doing this since the ninth grade,” Hattem said. “I’m not surprised, man. These kids just have that “it”. I don’t what it is, but she has it.”
In the second half, Angelini had “it” going on, too.
“Hannah was just so cool,” Hattem said. “Her legs were just so strong. These kids have an internal toughness and Hannah certainly has that in her.”
Somers freshman Dani DiCintio showed poise instead of toughness when, late in the fourth, she got punched by a Vestal player, who was subsequently tossed from the game, resulting in a two-shot technical, which Angelini converted 2 of 2 for a six-point lead.
“That was a monster turning point,” Hattem admitted. “She and Dani were kind of competitive all game, and I think their girl lost her cool, and my freshman kept her cool. Sink or swim I tell the girls, and Dani swam. She backed away and our 14-year-old kept her cool. I would have taken anything at that point because we weren’t scoring, and that put us up six and was just a monster turning point.”
Somers is hoping for a few more turning points this weekend, as the Tuskers seek what would be the third state championship for the Tuskers this school year (football, boys soccer).
Somers will need to key on Mendon sniper Sara Lyons and Caroline Cullinan if they are to advance to the finals where they would face the (Section 3) Jamesville-DeWitt vs. (Section 11) Elmont Memorial winner in Saturday’s 7:00 p.m. title tilt.
OSSINING will be making its annual pilgrimage to Troy for the NYS Class AA Girls’ Basketball Final 4 after eliminating Elmira (Section 4), 87-80, in a regional final: This was preceded by a 60-44 victory over Monroe-Woodbury (Section 9) in a regional semifinal.
Ossining is making its sixth consecutive trip to Hudson Valley Community College is seeking its fifth-straight state title.
The Pride will play Section 5 titlist, Our Lady of Mercy (Rochester), Friday, 8 p.m. The first semifinal will be Shenendehowa (Section 2)-Baldwin (Section 11). The winners play Saturday, 8:45 p.m. for the state title.
Ossining was in an unfamiliar situation, having to rally in the fourth quarter to overcome Elmira. The Pride outscored Elmira, 24-13, in the decisive quarter. Recently-minted NYS Gatorade Player of the Year Andra Espinoza-Hunter led Ossining with 40 points and Kailah Harris finished with 29 points and 16 boards. Pride wing Kelsey Quain hit six of the final eight points, including a clutch go-ahead trey.
“The difference in the fourth quarter was the fact we were down,” said the UConn-bound Espinoza-Hunter. “I knew I needed to do everything I could to help our team pull out the win, whether it was scoring or trusting my teammates and making the extra pass.”
Despite the deficit entering the fourth quarter and Ossining’s youth, the Pride remained poised.
“My teammates have been in these situations before, with the exception of Adrianna McFadden who is a freshman, but most of my teammates have won the section and regional championship and I knew they wouldn’t want to end their season so early,” Espinoza-Hunter said.
Espinoza-Hunter, an eighth-grader at the time, was a member of the 2013 state-title team. She would like nothing more than to close out her Ossining career with another state championship
“Winning the state championship that year was an amazing feeling,” Espinoza-Hunter said. “To return home, return to the state tournament and possible win another state tittle means a lot. This team has put in a tremendous amount of work in and I know if we play to our full potential we can be capable of winning.”
HALDANE won its fourth consecutive Section 1 Class C title and opened the state playoffs with a 47-41 victory over nemesis, Pine Plains (Section 9). Unfortunately, Port Jefferson (Section 11) defeated Haldane, 43-30, in a regional final.
The Blue Devils finished with a 19-6 record.
Even though the season ended too soon for Haldane, it was another successful season, highlighted by the fourth sectional title and the win over Pine Plains.
“After losing to Pine Plains last year, we were extremely motivated to make a difference this season,” senior and four-year varsity player Alexandra Cinquanta said. “With the same team as last year, we were all able to experience how it felt to have lost to them. But, this year we knew what we had to make a change.
“We knew what type of defense we had to play to shut down their top scorers and what plays we had to run to help our team score. Pine Plains was definitely not just a regular game. It could not be two or three people doing everything, scoring all the points, controlling the plays. Everyone one of us had to contribute in a positive way and our victory 100% consisted of that.
To beat Pine Plains was a dream come true. Ever since we first lost to them two years ago, we have worked endlessly to improve our skills to finally defeat them.”
Port Jefferson was prepared for Haldane and its defense held the Blue Devils’ offense in check.
“All we knew about Port Jefferson was that there were a few girls that we had to shut down to make it more difficult for them to successfully score,” said Cinquanta, who will attend SUNY-Cortland in the fall and play soccer. “Unfortunately, their defense made it very hard for any of us to shoot from outside the box and even down under the basket. Although we did not accomplish our goal of making it to States, our achievements to make it as far as we did, was an amazing experience.”
Cinquanta and her classmates, Hannah Monteleone and Missy Lisikatos, will graduate as four-time Section 1 basketball champions.
“I can’t even describe how it felt to have won four straight sectional titles during my high school basketball career,” Cinquanta said. “To be a part of a team that has pushed each other to accomplish different goals is what a team is all about.
“This year really showed that we could do it. Whether we were playing a Class C team or a Class A team, every one of us dug down deep and played with all of our heart. Even though our season sadly ended, the whole team is beyond thrilled to have made it the distance that we did. As a senior, I wish the best to the team in the years to come and I know for sure that they can keep the tradition going for the Haldane girls’ basketball team.”