Barbalato Leads the Bears to a Win Over Pleasantville

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Briarcliff’s Caroline Barbalato drives around Pleasantville’s Tina Matica in last Wednesday’s Bear victory.

For a good portion of the first half last Wednesday afternoon, there was no hint at all that Caroline Barbalato was about to have her highest scoring game in a Briarcliff Bears uniform.

The junior guard misfired on each of her first five shots from the floor, all of them 3-point tries, and her teammates struggled right along with her. In fact, the Bears went more than seven and a half minutes between points during a disastrous first quarter that ended with them trailing visiting Pleasantville 11-4.

But late in the half, with Briarcliff still behind by six points, Barbalato finally found the range, connecting on a long 3-pointer from the top of the key. When she drained another one just over two minutes later, the Bears suddenly had a one-point lead and would never trail again the rest of the way. With Barbalato finishing with seven 3-pointers and a game-high 27 points, they defeated the archrival Panthers 53-37 and improved their record to 12-4.

The Bears, leading 21-18 at halftime, broke the game open with an 11-0 spurt to start the second half. Briarcliff’s big blitz started and finished with 3-pointers from Barbalato three minutes apart. When the Panthers finally managed to get on the board with 3:51 remaining in the third quarter on a hook shot in the lane by freshman Meghan Raefski, who scored a team-high 13 points, it was Barbalato again who answered for the Bears with another trey that increased the lead to 35-20.

Cat Carrafiello of Briarcliff tries to get to the basket in the first half of last week’s home win over Pleasantville.

A 3-point shot by a wide-open Abby McAllister and then a free throw from McAllister a minute later after Bears star Cat Carrafiello was whistled for her fourth foul brought the Panthers to within 37-26 with 49.2 seconds left in the third quarter. But then the Bears’ Rebecca Kratz, who along with Adrianna Scanga wound up with nine points, weaved her way right of the lane for a basket with six seconds to go and Briarcliff took a 13-point cushion into the final period.

If the Panthers had any hopes of a comeback, they were dashed when the Bears started the fourth quarter with seven quick points. Senior forward Kyla Miller began the run when she grabbed a rebound and went coast to coast for a lefty layup high off the glass. Then Barbalato followed with her sixth triple of the game, this time near the right elbow and once again from well behind the 3-point arc.

A pair of free throws by Barbalato with 6:07 left in the game provided the Bears with their largest advantage of the day, 46-26. Pleasantville did respond with consecutive baskets by Kayla Collins and then one from McAllister, cutting its deficit back down to 14 with 3:51 still on the clock.

But a half minute later, it was Barbalato, of course, who supplied the dagger, firing in her final 3-pointer of the contest. Pleasantville, now 5-11 this season, got a bucket from Raefski and then Gianna Doto scored inside as Carrafiello fouled out, but it hardly mattered. The Bears ended the game with a 10-foot baseline toss by Kratz and two final free throws from Barbalato.

Ruby Donohue of Pleasantville and Cat Carrafiello of Briarcliff keep their eyes on the ball as they await a rebound.

Long before Barbalato’s hot finish, there was an ice-cold start for Briarcliff. Carrafiello had converted inside on a spin into the paint 25 seconds after the opening jump, but then the Bears didn’t score again until the sophomore, Scanga, made a 17-foot jumper from the left corner with two seconds left in the first quarter.

The Panthers, meanwhile, took advantage of the Briarcliff offensive woes by scoring 11 straight points to build a nine-point lead. Their run began with a left-elbow 19-footer by Ruby Donohue just over a minute into the game. Then came a fast-break layup from Raefski and a basket down low by Collins. After both teams went scoreless for over four minutes, Raefski capped the Panthers’ run with a pullup jumper from the foul line and then a fast-break lefty layup on a dish from Doto.

Pleasantville was still in control with 3:05 left in the second quarter after a 15-foot pullup jumper by Tina Matica extended its lead to 15-9. But moments later, Barbalato finally made her first shot of the game, the 3-pointer from well beyond the top of the key, igniting a 12-3 Bear burst the rest of the half that changed the course of the game and led to Briarcliff’s fifth win in its last six games.

-Andy Jacobs

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