By Andy Jacobs
With a matchup against top-seeded Ursuline looming, the Fox Lane girls’ basketball team’s stay in the Section 1, Class AA playoffs doesn’t figure to last very long. But the Foxes are sure making the most of the time they do have.
On Friday night, they kept visiting Clarkstown South off the scoreboard for the entire first quarter and went on to a 38-25 victory in an outbracket game that earned them a first-round date with the mighty Koalas. Senior point guard Quoya Schnell scored a game-high 12 points and Lauren Antolino came off the bench to add 10 as the 16th-seeded Foxes put an end to the 17th-seeded Vikings’ season.
“Defensively, we came out really fired up,” said Fox Lane head coach Kris Matts, who couldn’t recall ever watching one of his teams blank an opponent for so long. “We had such a tough schedule this season, one of the top-ranked schedules around. So we didn’t really get many opportunities to showcase how good these girls really are.”
Facing a Viking squad they had barely beaten in late January, the Foxes made certain this game would not be nearly as close. They built a 10-0 advantage after one quarter, then stretched the lead to 13 points when Antolino delivered a 3-pointer 43 seconds into the second. Clarkstown South, which missed all nine of its shots from the field and both free throws in the opening quarter, finally scored just over a minute into the second period.
“Clarkstown South is a good matchup for us,” said Matts. “We jumped them at the last minute to take the 16th seed so we get a home game. The senior girls were really fired up. They’re so happy. The whole time thinking, ‘Oh, we’re gonna have to drive to Rockland on a Friday night.’ That’s not the way they wanted to end it.”
With the boys’ basketball team standing in the bleachers vociferously cheering them on, the Foxes claimed the lead for good when senior forward Ella Bahari swished a 15-foot pop near the foul line to start the game’s scoring with 6:19 to go in the first quarter. Both teams then struggled mightily shooting the ball before Fox Lane finally erupted late in the quarter.
Schnell made a steal and went coast to coast for a layup, giving the Foxes a 5-0 lead. Soon eighth-grader Morgan Clinton grabbed a rebound, took the ball up the floor and weaved through the lane for a toss that rolled in. With just under a minute left in the quarter, Antolino swished a high-arching 3-point shot from the left elbow.
Another trey from Antolino, a sophomore guard, opened the second quarter and gave Fox Lane a 13-point cushion. After the Vikings finally did score, on a 3-pointer from Grace Camerlingo, they then continued their offensive drought and didn’t get another basket until Fallon Shapiro beat the halftime buzzer with a fast-break layup.
The Fox Lane lead had grown to 20-3 late in the second quarter following a 15-foot jumper by freshman Cara Drapala, then Antolino’s third 3-pointer of the half and, finally, a lefty layup from Schnell on an assist by Clinton. Even though the Foxes didn’t score over the final two minutes, they still held a 20-5 halftime lead.
Clarkstown South had a little more success against the Foxes’ constant 2-3 zone once the second half got underway. A pair of 3-pointers by Schnell in the third quarter gave Fox Lane a 28-10 advantage, but the Vikings answered with back-to-back triples from Shapiro and Kate Frae 30 seconds apart to close within 12 points.
The Vikings could have whittled the Foxes’ lead even more, but Shapiro’s short jumper in the lane with 1:18 left in the third quarter hung tantalizingly on the rim before falling off. Clarkstown wound up outscoring the Foxes 12-10 in the period and went to the final quarter trailing 30-17.
“Yes, I think my girls care for me,” said Matts, “but they do enjoy pumping up the cardiac situation for me, which I wish they wouldn’t. They’re better than that. But this is a game where they kind of let them sneak back in a little bit and cut the lead a little bit. You fall asleep at all, any team can get you in girls’ basketball.”
Just 45 seconds into the fourth quarter, Drapala drained a 3-pointer, but the Vikings countered with five straight points, slicing the Fox Lane lead to 11 points midway through the period. Any doubt about the outcome disappeared for good, though, when the middle schooler, Clinton, scooped up a loose ball near the basket and scored an easy layup to give the Foxes a 35-22 margin with just 3:18 remaining.
Matts was delighted that his eight seniors got to relish a playoff victory on their own court.
“Some of them are actually going away now, so this was their last game, period,” he said, referring to the school’s upcoming winter recess. “So to do it at home, with a victory, it means the world to them. You could see it on their faces. They really deserve it, too.”