Lakeland, Panas to Battle for League D; Mahopac, Brewster to Challenge in League C
By Tony Pinciaro
In 2020, PUTNAM VALLEY won the Section 1 Class B title and was primed for a run at a state title. However, the Covid pandemic cancelled the state championships and subsequently the 2020 spring sports’ season.
Last year, Putnam Valley made it consecutive championships as the Tigers defeated Walter Panas to win the Northern Westchester/Putnam Small Schools title. The Tigers finished with a 19-2 record under former Coach Kristi Dini, who was unceremoniously released prior to the start of the season.
Putnam Valley is hoping to make it a three-peat and are in a good position to accomplish this. The Tigers enter the 2021-22 season with a veteran nucleus, led by URI-bound junior sensation Eva DeChent, and a new leader in veteran and former Briarcliff girls’ Coach Don Hamlin.
Winning the school’s first sectional title in 2020 was exciting, but making it two consecutive titles was additionally rewarding considering the situation the winter athletes faced.
“It meant so much to me and the team because it was the second year in a row we won and, despite the restrictions, we still worked as hard as we could because at any moment it could have ended with covid,” said DeChent, a five-year varsity player who is closing in, this season, on 1,000 career points, and the all-time PV scoring record.
DeChent, an All-Section selection last year along with current Pace University freshman Arianna Stockinger, is joined by a deep, veteran group. Senior Amanda Orlando, an All-League pick last year, returns to the backcourt with DeChent. Classmate Natalie Mazza and sophomore Ava Harmon return in the frontcourt while sophomores Nye Torres and Brianna Foody provide experienced backcourt depth.
Hamlin welcomes a quintet of newcomers to varsity led by 5-foot-11 freshman and center Jona Kobashi. Senior Leann Keeler and junior Rachel Berdecia will man forward spots and sophomores Taylor Rogers and Faith Marrero add more depth to the backcourt.
Even though the returning group is familiar with the newcomers, they are acclimating themselves to Hamlin, who coached for 26 years at Briarcliff (a couple of years at Brewster) before retiring at the conclusion of last basketball season.
“We were lucky to get Coach Hamlin because he has a lot of experience and we are looking forward to learning from him,” DeChent said. “We are pleased that even with the change in coaches, in a short time everyone is using that as motivation to work harder and get better every day in practice.”
Hamlin was enjoying his retirement in South Carolina, but decided to return to New York for the winter with his wife, Denise, coaching Briarcliff varsity girls’ basketball.
“I knew I would want something to do,” Hamlin said. “I missed coaching basketball, already, and this opportunity became available. The timing was uncanny, but after much discussion at home, I applied and feel fortunate to have been offered the position. I am coaching a great group of girls. They have been super to work with. They are kind, friendly and they love basketball. The community has been very supportive. The AD, principal and assistant principal have been very welcoming as have the parents and the rest of the coaching staff. My two assistants, Kerry Scarduzio and Cyan Scarduzio, are just awesome young ladies. The girls have terrific role models in these two. I don’t think I could have coached in a better situation.”
DeChent, who suffered an ankle injury in the first week of the season, understands that opponents will bring their ‘A’ games in hopes of beating the two-time-champion Tigers.
“We will come ready to play every game, not take any team for granted and play our best every game,” DeChent said.
Putnam Valley opened the season with a victory over Pleasantville before suffering injuries to two starters in a loss to Arlington.
However, Putnam Valley bounced back with a strong effort, minus two starters to overcome perennial Section 1 Class B champion Irvington, 50-47.
“It was a nice win against Irvington,” Hamlin said. “We played down two starters, but Amanda Orlando, Nye Torres, Briana Foody, Jona Kobashi and Ava Harmon stepped up.
“We have a tough week ahead, but we hope to be at full strength after the break, if not sooner.”
Coach: Mike Castaldo (10th year)
2020-21 record: 9-4 (98-80, overall)
Tournament results: Lost to Mahopac in the Northern Westchester/Putnam Large School Tournament Championship Game
Graduated seniors: Two starters
Top returning players: Grace Galgano, Sr., 5-10, C (Captain, 2-time All Section); Sophia Alzugaray, Sr., 5-3, PG; Adrianna Calicchia Sr., 5-5, G; Madison Dakin, Jr., 5-9, G/F
Key newcomers: Margo Cunningham, Jr., 5-7, F; Bre Washington, Jr., 5-5, G; Bri Franklin, Jr., 5-5, G; Shay Rookwood, Soph., 5-4, G; Jordan Niles, Soph, 5-5, G
Coach’s thoughts and season outlook: We are always looking to compete for a league title and make a deep run during sectionals. Last year, the girls found ways to win close games and we return a great core group that can expect to do the same thing again.
This and that: Castaldo said Galgano has a great shot to reach 1,000 career points and 1,000 career rebounds this season.
BREWSTER has been dominant, opening the season with a 13-point win over a perennially-tough Rye team. The Bears followed it up with decisive verdicts over Lincoln and Clarkstown North. Galgano had a huge game against Clarkstown North with a game-high 25 points. She also added 13 rebounds, eight blocked shots and five steals. Calicchia added 10 points and four assists and Dakin chipped in eight points and eight rebounds. Galgano led Brewster with 21 points and Niles finished with 12 points as the Bears overwhelmed Lincoln.
“We did a great job controlling the glass,” said Castaldo of the Clarkstown North game. “It was our best rebounding effort, as a team, this year. Grace played a solid game. Her stat line is always filled as she takes pride in getting rebounds and playing great defense.”
Brewster will host its annual tournament, Thursday-Friday. R.C. Ketcham will play Pelham in the first game, 5 p.m., and Brewster faces Poughkeepsie, 6:30 p.m. The consolation game is 5 p.m., Friday, followed by the championship game, 6:30 p.m.
“The girls are playing well, right now, and I’m proud of them, but we’re not where we want to be,” Castaldo said. “We need to get to the next level with our defense and intensity.”
HEN HUD SAILORS
Coach: Ken Sherman (13th year)
2020-21 record and overall record: 3-9
Tournament results: Lost in the first round to eventual champion Putnam Valley in the first round of the Northern Westchester/Putnam Small School Tournament.
Graduated seniors: Three, including two starters.
Top returning players: Colleen Ryan, Sr., PG; Shannon Ellis, Sr., C; Alex Figueroa, Sr., G; Maddy Porter, Jr., F; Kaitlyn Raguso, Fr., G (team-leading 13 ppg last year).
Key newcomers: Alexa Robinson. Soph., G; Kayla Tresgallo, Soph., C; Hailey Pearson, Soph., F.; Carmen Marino, Fr., F; Kayla McCarthy, F., PG; Marin Quigley, Fr., F.
Team strengths: Defense; Colleen Ryan running the offense. Question marks, if any: Where will the scoring come from after Raguso.
Coach’s thoughts and season outlook: Our first goal is to have more wins than last season. We want to start with small goals and work our way from there.
This and that: After playing her freshman year at Marist, former Sailor Caitlin Weimar transferred and is playing for Boston University. Kira Varada, a 2021 graduate, is playing lacrosse at Iona.
Coach: Miranda Mangan (eighth year at Lakeland, 10th overall).
2020-21 record and overall record: 7-7
Tournament results: Won opening-round game against Croton, lost to top-seeded Panas in semifinals of the Northern Westchester/Putnam Small School Tournament.
Graduated seniors: Four, including two starters.
Top returning players: Tyler Hormazabal, Sr., 5-7, G (Captain, All-League, led the team in scoring and steals); Hannah Devane, Sr., 5-10, F/G (Captain, second on the team in scoring and rebounding); Caitlain Carroll, Sr., 5-7, G.; HaiLian Rowan, Sr., 5-4, G; Nichole Ljuljic, Soph., 5-5, PG; Sarah Devane, Fr., 5-7, G/F.
Key newcomers: Nikole Langan, Jr., 5-10, F; Grace Hahn, Soph., 5-10, F; Ava Lugo, Soph., 5-8, G; Kellie Sullivan, Soph., 5-6, G; Amanda Franco, Fr., 5-4, G.
Team strengths: This year we have a really well rounded roster. There is a core group of experienced players that saw a lot of action last season, mixed with talented youth, and some depth to our bench.
Coach’s thoughts and season outlook: We are really looking forward to this season. Every practice so far has been filled with a lot of excitement, and fresh energy. The girls have been through a lot the last two years with all of the challenges that COVID has thrown their way. They are ready to take nothing for granted and make the most of this season.
Mangan could not have asked for a better start to the season as her team is 5-0. The Hornets, after winning the Relay for Life Tournament in week one of the season, beat Riverside and Yorktown to stay undefeated. Hormazabal has been an offensive force through five games. She had a game-high 22 points and also added four steals in the 60-46 triumph over Yorktown. Hormazabal is averaging 25 points per game.
Hannah Devane added a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds. She also posted three blocked shots. Ljuljic finished with 10 points and six steals, Lugo had eight points and six steals and Sarah Devane added seven points and 11 rebounds.
Hormazabal had 26 points, five steals and four assists in the 76-21 victory over Riverside.
Hannah Devane contributed 16 points, Lugo had 14 points, Ljuljic chipped in seven points and five assists and Amanda Franco also had seven points.
“It’s a great start to the season,” Mangan said. “The girls are really starting to gel. Our competition is going to get a bit tougher over the next few weeks so we are looking forward to competing.”
Coach: Chuck Scozzafava (ninth at Mahopac, 25th overall)
2020-21 record: 12-1
Tournament result: Mahopac won the Northern Westchester/Putnam Large School Championship.
Graduated seniors: Four, all starters.
Top returning players: Lauren Beberman, Jr., 5-9, G/F (All-Section); Melanie DeMeo, Sr., 5-6, G (All-League); Julie DeBrocky, Sr., 5-6, G/F (All-League); Julia Paolicelli, Sr., 5-6, G/F, Marissa McCarney, Sr., 5-6, F, Piper Klammer, Jr., 5-7, G/F; Jessica Sterben, Jr., 5-9, F; Gianna Rispoli, Jr., 5-6, G; Kristina Rush, Jr., 5-5, G.
Key newcomers: Katie Watts, Jr., 5-7, G, Fiona O’Boyle, Soph, 6-0, C/F.
Coach’s thoughts and season outlook: A team strength would be the number of returners. We are hoping to have a successful year.
MAHOPAC is 1-1 through the first two weeks of the season.
The Indians began the season with a loss to Tappan Zee. Behind 10 points apiece from Julia DeBrocky and Kristina Rush. Mahopac defeated Byram Hills.
Coach: Dan Ricci (31st year)
2020-21 record: 7-7
Graduated seniors: Three starters
Top returning players: Katie Marx, Sr., F (16 ppg, 6 rpg before injury); Michelle Mercado, Sr. (missed half of 20-21 because of Covid protocol); Ella Schnecker (5 ppg); Karen Perriott ( 4 ppg. 6 rpg)
Key newcomers: Angelica Rios, Jr.; Zoey Jowers, Soph.; Claire Schnecker, 8th-grader
Coach’s thoughts and season outlook: We are very young with four sophomores and an eighth-grader so how fast we learn how to compete at the varsity level will be the key.
This and that: began the 2021-22 season with three wins – Suffern (58-23), Mount Vernon (68-40) and East Ramapo (63-28). Katie Marx had a team-leading 17 points, nine rebounds and four steals against East Ramapo and Ella Schnecker added 14 points.
Marx poured in a team-leading 22 points against Mount Vernon. Mercado finished with 18 points, 10 assists and seven steals and Schnecker had 11 points, seven rebounds, five assists and five steals.
Schnecker had a game-high 20 points in the season-opener. Marx added 14 points and seven rebounds and Mercado finished with 13 points, nine assists, six rebounds and three steals.
Ossining will play undefeated Panas, Thursday, in the first round of the Somers Tournament.
Coach: Matt Evangelista (11th year)
2020-21 season record: 13-2 (116-87, overall)
Tournament results: Lost in the final to Putnam Valley of the Northern Westchester/Putnam Small Schools Final
Graduated seniors: Four starters
Top returning players: Kelsey Cregan, Jr., 5-8, F, (9.3 ppg, 13.6 rpg, All League); Cadence Nicholas, Fr., 5-6, F, (7.7 ppg, 6.5 rpg, All League); Julia Galliger, Jr., 5-8, F; Sofia Tavares, Fr., 5-5, G; Sarah Chuili, Fr., 5-7, G; Lindsay Kagan, Sr., 5-3, G; Lizzie Bergamini, Sr., 5-8, F
Key newcomers: Kiara Williams, Fr., 5-7, F; Katie Hoffman, Fr., 5-5, G; Jillian Cinquina, Fr., 5-8, F
Team strengths: Speed, athleticism and defense.
Team question marks, if any: Experience, after graduating four starters; the returning players will have to take on new roles and challenges.
Coach’s thoughts and season outlook: The hopes to be very competitive and to try to learn and improve throughout the season, to be a challenge to eliminate in the playoffs
This and that: Panas will play in the Somers Tournament, 12/16 & 12/18 with Ossining, Mahopac and Somers. … Panas and Putnam Valley meet, 1/9, in the Slam Dunk Tournament.
PANAS added two more wins, over Sleepy Hollow (58-39) and Peekskill (53-31), improving to 4-0 this season. Cadence Nicholas continued her stand-out freshman year with a season-high 29 points against Peekskill. She also added five rebounds and seven steals. Nicholas, in her second varsity season, is averaging 19.5 points per game to date.
Tavares registered her first career triple-double with 10 points, 11 rebounds and 10 steals. She also collected five assists. Nicholas had a team-best 15 points against Sleepy Hollow. Tavares added 13 points and Sarah Chiuli chipped in 9 points.
Panas plays 3-0 Ossining, Thursday, in the first round of the Somers Tournament.
Coach: Marc Hattem (sixth year)
2020-21 record: 9-9
Tournament results: Lost in the semifinals of the Westchester/Putnam Small Schools Tournament.
Top returning players: Amy Lasher, Sr. (All-League); Ava Giudice, Jr. (All-League); Lauren McCartin, Jr.; Maddie Lyle, Jr.; Lindsay McCullough, Soph.; Alexa Warycha, Jr. (will miss the first month with an injury)
Team strengths: We have an amazing group of multi-sport athletes that know how to compete, practice the right way, and understand the work it takes to be successful. With Alexa out, our desire to rebound the ball will be the difference in deciding the outcome of games.
Coach’s thoughts and season outlook: We just want to get better and we will. We’ve been preaching improvement, every day, at practice with the goal to be playing our best basketball come February.
This and that: Somers will host Mahopac, Ossining and Panas in its Tournament, 12/16 & 12/18.
Coach: Brian Mundy (fourth year)
2020-21 record: 6-7.
Tournament results: Lost to Ossining in the first round of the Northern Westchester/Putnam Large School Tournament. The game was even at 44-44 with four minutes remaining in the game.
Graduated seniors: Three, including one starter
Top returning starters: Melissa Severino, Sr., 5-7, G (17 ppg. 8 rpg, All-League); Emily Ward, Jr., 5-3, G; Olivia Lucas, Jr., 5-6, G (8.4 ppg, 3 steals per game), Artesa Gashi, Sr., 5-9, F; Erisa Krasniqi, Sr., 5-9, F; Lindsey Townes, Sr., 5-8, G; Isabelle Merlini, Sr., 5-8, F; Sarah Yakout, Sr., 5-8, F
Key newcomers: Kaitlyn Judge, Soph., 5-6, G; Martina Prybylski, Jr., 5-5, G; Rachel Gevanthor, Jr., 5-3, G; Nicole Boccia, Jr., 5-6, F; Nicole Thomas, Jr., 5-6, F; Riley Tiberi, Jr., 5-7, F
Team strengths: Defense, grittiness.
Coach’s thoughts and season outlook: We have a lot of girls with varsity experience. We will be competitive because this group works really hard and they’re hungry. If we can defend and rebound, we will put ourselves in position to win games. We also have an assistant coach for the first time, this year, in Sunnie Killeen. She brings a wealth of knowledge and was a Division III All-American. She has already been a tremendous asset.
This and that: Yorktown will host the George Budries Classic beginning Sat., 1/8 vs. Somers, 3:30 p.m. All boys’ and girls’ basketball levels will play against Somers, throughout the day, alternating boys and girls, starting with Freshman boys (we have no Freshman girls team).
YORKTOWN went 1-1 to open the 2021-22 season, beating Gorton (62-15) before falling to Lakeland (60-46). Severino outscored Gorton with 24 points, Townes contributed 10 points and Judge added seven points. Severino had 16 points and Krasnigi scored 11 points against Lakeland.
Ray has 33 years experience covering and photographing local sports in Westchester and Putnam counties, including everything from Little League/Travel Baseball to varsity high school prep sports and collegiate coverage. He has been a sports editor at Examiner Media since its inception in 2007.