By Ray Gallagher
Examiner Sports Editor @Directrays
& Rob DiAntonio @RJD_Photos
And when we blinked, the regular season was over. Just like that, the playoffs were upon us in this five-week COVID-19 abbreviated season. The Section 1 regional tournament seeds were set to come out today (Tuesday), and while the culminating events are not what we’re used to – the Westchester County Center Final 4 hoopla and all – most coaches and players are simply thankful to have had an opportunity to shine, however brief it was.
Nobody likes to wake up early on Saturdays, and that became increasingly apparent for a pair of Putnam County girls’ basketball teams with high postseason aspirations. Coming off its biggest win of the season in Friday’s 59-58 win over Hastings, reigning Section 1 Class B champion Putnam Valley put up a clunker in a 43-27 loss to Class A host Byram Hills. Previously undefeated Class AA Mahopac followed suit in a 44-30 setback at Arlington, so, lucky for both, they’ve got a week to get the bearings straight before next Saturday’s regional championships; should they each survive the opening-round rigors on Wednesday and Thursday.
PUTNAM / NORTH. WESTCHESTER
(Large School Group)
As of press time Monday, it seemed highly unlikely that anyone would overtake MAHOPAC, the overwhelming favorite, for the No.1 seed in the Putnam/Northern Westchester Large School Regional Tournament, though OSSINING, which suffered a recent 63-59 setback at the hands of the Indians, would dispute that on many levels and is considered a legit challenger.
BREWSTER, YORKTOWN and FOX LANE fall in line accordingly and have the horses to make a run at Coach Chuck Scozzafava’s Mahopac club as well.
In MAHOPAC’s 37-28 win over host SOMERS Wednesday, Indian junior G Melanie DeMeo and senior F Mia Klammer (12.3 PPG) each scored nine points. Somers played a pretty even game behind Lauren McCartin’s career-high 13 points.
Mahopac improved to 9-0 in Thursday’s 49-32 win over visiting Somers, but lost for the first time this season in Saturday’s setback at Arlington, which beat the Indians at their own game — defense and transition scoring; holding the Indians to just six, yes, six(!) first-half points. Klammer had eight to lead the way.
Against Somers at home, the Indians took control largely behind a critical stretch in the game when they went to full court pressure late in the second quarter. Sophomore G Kristina Rush (11 points) hit back-to-back 3s and sophomore G Lauren Beberman (10 points) made a steal and layup to cap an 8-0 run. Mahopac senior F Caitlyn O’Boyle (11 points, 13 boards, 3 blocks) was tough in the paint and averages over 12 RPG. Klammer did typical Klammer things, including five assists and five steals. DeMeo (5 assist, 4 steals) also contributed to the Conference I-II League B-title-clinching win.
“The hard part of playing great teams like Mahopac is: Give them an inch, they take the mile,” Somers boss Marc Hattem said. “Beberman and Klammer are relentless, and Rush didn’t hit the rim on her makes. That’s a complete team.
“We turned it over against their full court a couple times and they scored quickly in that run,” he added. “Outside of that, I am so proud of how the girls battled them the last two days, especially on the boards. No quit and a lot of fight. Lauren (McCartin) is a special athlete. I haven’t coached many in my past 20-plus years that could match her in that category. She’s comparable to Livy (Rosenzweig) in that regard. This year has been great for her because she’s getting the game experience. I’m excited to coach her for a full season next year and see the leap her game will take.”
Any time a coach from Section 1 compares ANY player to Rosenzweig, that is high praise.
In Yorktown’s 50-24 win over Carmel, Husker junior G Melissa Severino (19 points) continued a torrid stretch as the Huskers won back-to-back against the Rams. Olivia Lucas added nine points for Yorktown while Morgan Johnson led Carmel with 11 points and Madelyn McMath added eight. In Yorktown’s 57-17 win over Carmel, Severino was on fire from distance, going for a career-high 29 points off five 3’s. Lucas added seven points for the Huskers, who led 28-4 at one point. McMath (7 points) led the Rams.
Ossining senior G Tyler Dendy is averaging nearly 30 PPG and 10 RPG for the Pride (6-5), which have lost three in a row but could hold on for the League C title with a win over Panas last night. A loss would create a tie for league bragging rights with the Panthers. Katie Mark is averaging 15 PPG for the Pride.
Brewster junior F Grace Galgano (16.8 PPG, 15 RPG, 4 BPG) and the Bears, winner of four in a row, are flying under the radar but having a solid season nonetheless. Coach Mike Castaldo’s Bears (6-2) put Lakeland away, 54-41, behind Galgano’s monster double-double (15 points, 20 caroms, 3 blocks).
“Grace has been playing on another level,” the coach said. “She is getting double- and triple-teamed but because she can shoot threes and go coast to coast. She is a difficult player to defend. I’m really proud of how she is handling all the defensive attention.”
Brewster junior Alexis Mark (8.5 RPG) added a game-high 18 points and eight rebounds. Sophomore Madison Dakin played a tremendous game from start to finish, doing all the little things.
“I was so proud of how she stepped up,” Castaldo said. “She held Lakeland’s best player, Tyler Hormazabal, to seven, got a ton of offensive rebounds and steals.”
“The first meeting at Brewster (against Lakeland) was a very close back and forth game for 32 minutes,” Castaldo said. “Playing Lakeland is always a battle, they are well coached and tough kids. We were able to make a few more plays late in the game and converted on free throws to seal the win.”
Galgano led the way with 24 points, 17 rebounds and six blocks. Carly DeLanoy added 10 points and Sophia Alzugaray was key in the first half with several 3s and great defense.
The second game at Lakeland was a tad sloppy in the first half.
“We couldn’t shoot and weren’t converting on easy opportunities,” Castaldo said. “Luckily, we took a three-point lead into half and came out to one of our best third quarters of the season. We were able to build a 20-point lead and never look back. Lex had a great bounce back game. She only had five points in the first game and really stepped it up for us.”
CARMEL chalked up its first win of the season in a 52-33 triumph of Peekskill. Rams Devin Fusco and Morgan Johnson led the way with 13 points each while Madelyn McMath added 12.
Natalie Pence has been on a mission for FOX LANE. The senior went for 17 points, 12 rebounds, five assists, five steals and three blocks in a 55-19 romp of HORACE GREELEY on March 1.
The smooth left-handed senior guard generates lots of attention from opposing defenses and when they collapse on her she has plenty of capable teammates ready to knock down open looks.
“Every team, and Natalie’s used to it, they dedicate their whole defense to stopping her,” Fox Lane coach Kris Matts said. “When the other girls shoot like they can, we’re a very difficult match-up. If they’re off then it gets a little problematic and Natalie’s got to shoulder us a little bit more.”
Quoya Schnell (11 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists), Nicole Picinich (6 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists), Susannah Kimsal (6 points, 5 rebounds) and Holly Ades (6 points) all contributed. Kaylin Genda paced the Quakers with 11 points.
“Quoya Schnell is a great shooter, Nicole Picinich can drive to the basket and Holly Ades, our co-captain, she shoots lights out sometimes,” Matts said. “Basically everyone on the team can shoot.”
Matts said that Lauren Antolino, Maddie Broghammer and Cara Drapala provided “amazing hustle and were diving all over the floor.” Ibby Moccia, Ella Bahari and Jordan Daglio brought energy off the bench. They played scrappy defense, corralled rebounds and swiped steals.
The Foxes traveled to Blind Brook and earned a 47-40 victory on Friday behind Pence’s 16 points, 14 rebounds, three steals and two blocks. Picinich also had a big game with 13 points, 10 rebounds and six assists. She also clinched the win with a putback. Drapala added six points and three steals while Schnell had five points and eight boards.
Matts earned his 100th career win and Fox Lane won its third straight game with a 52-28 rout of North Salem on Saturday. Pence (17 points, 10 rebounds) and Drapala (10 points) led the Foxes. Fox Lane (7-3) closed out the regular season with games against Pelham and Walter Panas before the playoffs begin on Wednesday.
PUTNAM / NORTH. WESTCHESTER
(Small School Group)
This could be a raging four-day battle for all the marbles with a slew of regional title contenders in the grouping, including LAKELAND, WALTER PANAS, PUTNAM VALLEY and BRIARCLIFF.
PEEKSKILL, CROTON, HALDANE, HEN HUD and North Salem round out the nine-team field.
Here comes PANAS (9-1). You know how we know? Friday’s 75-58 win over Ossining gave it away, as did six-straight wins. Panas senior G Kristen Cinquina, who scored the 1,000th point of her career in a prior win over North Salem, had 19 points against the Pride. Panther F Kelsey Cregan’s double-double was impressive (18 points, 17 rebounds) and senior G Cailean Nolan added 15 points and eight rebounds for the suring Panthers, winners of six-straight after Saturday’s 47-29 win over YORKTOWN.
Against the Huskers (5-5), Cinquina (15.6 PPG) sat out with an ankle issue that should be cleared up before playoffs, so Coach Matt Evangelista pulled a couple of eighth-graders from his bag of tricks. Cadence Nicholas (remember that name) scored a game-high 14 points and grabbed eight boards to pace the Panthers and classmate Sophia Tavares (remember her, too) went for six points. Nolan added 13 points and five rebounds while Cregan chipped in with eight points and nine boards and now averages 15 RPG.
“I told the girls I have never been more proud of any team I’ve ever coached,” Panas boss Matt Evangelista said. “Not because we won but because of their confidence and attitude throughout this this season.”
Speaking of eighth-graders, PEEKSKILL’s Bethani Overby is averaging nearly 17 PPG and 13.2 RPG while HEN HUD eighth-grader Kaitlin Raguso is averaging 13 PPG and 9.4 RPG #BrightFutures.
Yorktown’ Severino had been on fire leading up to the Panas loss, scoring 85 points in three previous games, including a career-high 37 in a 67-46 win over reigning Section 1 Class A champion Hen Hud. She is having an All-Section-type season when you throw in her hustle, defense and rebounding (8 RPG).
PUTNAM VALLEY got sophomore G Eva DeChent (17 PPG, 8 RPG, 7 APG) on track when she went for a season-high 33 in the win over previously undefeated Hastings, which was held to a season low in the 59-58 Tiger win. Senior F Arianna Stockinger added 13 points and followed up with 25 against Byram, which PV Coach Kristi Dini called “a letdown”.
Stockinger, who averages over 16 PPG and 9 RPG, dropped 23 on Dobbs Ferry in a 44-38 PV win over the Eagles. Her defense on Eagles standout Julia Schwabe was better than stellar. Amanda Orlando added 12 points for the Tigers (7-2), who had won six straight before the Byram loss and took sole ownership of the Conference III North League title in Sunday’s 62-35 win over CROTON, which the Tigers needed badly as they headed into the playoffs. PV was led by Stockinger’s 24 points. DeChent (17) and Orlando (12) were prime factors. Croton was led by Anna Eng (17 points).
LAKELAND bounced back from its loss to Brewster in Saturday’s 71-50 win over visiting John Jay CR behind Hannah Devane’s game-high 16 points. Hornet G Tyler Hormazabal (13 PPG) did her typical thing (1e Blue Devils and Maddy Morter added 14. Maddie Chiera (18 points, 4 steals) and Ruby Poses (6 points) led Haldane. Croton’s Eng scored 19 points, one below her season average in a 59-42 win over Valhalla Sofia Tuman (16 points) and Lucia Thoreson (14) were solid secondary options. Paige Williams scored 16 points to pace the Vikings. Nichole Ljuljic (12 points) and Sarah Devane (9 points) chipped in for the Hornets (5-6).
Defending Section 1 Class A champion Hen Hud picked up its first win of the season at Haldane, 64- 36 when G Grace Moretti dropped 17 points on the Blue Devils. Raguso added 10 and G Kira Varada had nine. Haldane was led by Maddie Chiera (18 points, 4 steals) and Ruby Poses (6 points).
BRIARCLIFF (4-1) went on a quarantine pause after a win over Valhalla back on Feb. 24. The Bears returned to action yesterday against Hendrick Hudson and concluded their regular season at Westlake today.
SOUTHERN WEST. (Group 3)
PLEASANTVILLE survived a scare from host CROTON-HARMON, edging the Tigers 51-49 last Tuesday. Lila Donohue (16 points), Mary Grace O’Neill (14 points) and Jenna McAllister (12 points) paced the Panthers while Anna Eng led Croton with a game-high 23 points.
Two days later, the Panthers went on the road and battled powerhouse Rye in a 51-47 defeat. McAllister (14 points) and O’Neill (12 points) led Pleasantville.
The Panthers’ second contest with Croton was nothing like the first meeting as Pleasantville cruised to an easy 59-30 win. Tina Matica and McAllister sparked the team with 15 and 14 points, respectively. Julia O’Reilly added 12 points. Eng led all scorers with 21 points.
Pleasantville (8-2) ended its regular season against Blind Brook on Monday.
WESTLAKE (4-1) returned from a pause on Friday, defeating host Rye Neck 54-23 behind 13 points from Nicole Karaqi and 10 points from ToniAnn Mastracchio. The Wildcats jumped out to an 18-4 lead after one quarter and never looked back.
The next day, the Wildcats won their fourth straight game with a 56-37 rout of VALHALLA. Sami Oswald went for a career-high 20 points on the strength of four 3-pointers. Mastracchio added 11 points and four assists while Julie Lyden tallied 10 points. The Vikings were paced by Tvisha Sivarmakrishnan’s nine points.
Westlake traveled to Bronxville on Monday before wrapping up the regular season the next day when they host Briarcliff, who they defeated 59-45 back on Feb. 21.
Valhalla topped Yonkers Montessori Academy 46-36 on Tuesday behind Sivarmakrishnan (14 points), Paige Williams (11 points) and Megan Lynch (10 points). Williams had 16 points in a 59-32 loss to Croton the next day.
SOUTHERN WEST. (Group 2)
After being on pause for eight days, BYRAM HILLS returned to action with a bang, sweeping John Jay Cross-River and defeating both New Rochelle and last year’s Section 1 Class B champion PUTNAM VALLEY.
In a defensive slugfest, Byram defeated visiting Putnam Valley 43-27 on Saturday morning. Byram Hills was sparked by junior guard Beth Corelli, who tallied 12 points, eight rebounds and three steals. Freshman Grace Corelli (9 points, 7 rebounds, 3 steals) and senior Olivia Picca (7 points, 12 rebounds, 2 steals) were also key contributors.
Byram Hills built a 26-14 halftime lead and was up 34-23 after three quarters.
“Once we knocked down a few shots, our team’s confidence really grew,” Bobcats coach Tara Ryan said. “Senior Gabby Ripka knocked down two threes, which gave us a nice lead in the first quarter. We were pushing the ball when we could but really working on screening when Putnam Valley was playing man defense. In the second half, PV did a nice job of switching to zone and we had to find a way to score other than outside shots. Beth and Picca did a great job rebounding along with Olivia Barry.”
The Bobcats held star Putnam Valley guard Eva DeChent to just one point.
“We had a plan of face guarding her and Grace did a fantastic job,” Ryan said. “We were able to get her in foul trouble which changed how she has to play. She is a fantastic player. I am happy our team played great help defense on her. We were able to defend and rebound and great things happened for us. Kids hit shots when we needed them and we came out on top today.”
Arianna Stockinger led Putnam Valley with a game-high 25 points. It was a tough shooting day for the Tigers, who went just 7 for 18 from the foul line.
Byram cruised past league opponent John Jay 69-36 on March 1 with Beth Corelli (21 points), Grace Corelli (17 points) and Picca (10 points) leading the way. Two days later they topped the Wolves again, this time in a tighter 59-51 contest where they led just 31-30 at halftime. Beth Corelli (18 points), Grace Corelli (12 points), Picca (9 points) and Olivia Barry (7 points) did the damage offensively for the Bobcats, who secured a league title.
The unbeaten Bobcats (6-0) concluded the regular season on Monday against WHITE PLAINS before entering the regional playoffs.
SOUTHERN WEST. (Group 1)
WHITE PLAINS lost to New Rochelle (52-43) and Ursuline (81-33, Aliya McIver 12 points) to start the week but rebounded with three victories.
The Tigers earned a measure of revenge against the visiting Huguenots in a 50-48 league win on Wednesday. Freshman point guard Ineivi Plata scored the game-winning basket on a feed from sophomore Anneliese Reggio with 14.9 seconds to go and the Tigers were able to get a crucial stop on New Rochelle’s final possession.
White Plains built an 18 point lead in the second half that New Rochelle erased but the Tigers were able to claw back for the win.
“Based on our inconsistency to close teams out, our youth kicked in and we started making senseless turnovers,” Tigers coach Benji Carter said. “That’s how we lost to Scarsdale and New Rochelle to start the season. New Rochelle took advantage of our miscues offensively and chipped away until they took the lead in the fourth quarter. I called a few timeouts to discuss how important paying attention to details and working hard for 32 minutes matter. I didn’t want to micromanage at the end. I wanted them to figure it out and they did. Although I felt we were the better team, it showed my team that hard work and mental toughness can overcome talent when talent doesn’t work hard on each possession.”
Plata netted a game-high 17 points and grabbed six boards. Sequoia Layne added 10 points while McIver had a strong all-around effort with six points, five rebounds, seven assists, seven steals and two blocks.
“Beforehand we discussed who their top scorers were and the assignments to make adjustments from the first loss,” Carter said of the bounce back win. “We had to maintain a body in front of them at all times. [New Rochelle] plays hard and if left open we knew their guards were good shooters and their forwards were scrappy.”
Behind 17 points from McIver, the Tigers topped Pelham 51-45 on Thursday. Layne and Plata added nine points apiece.
White Plains celebrated senior day with a 52-38 win over Mount Vernon on Friday. Layne (14 points, 10 rebounds) and McIver (12 points, 9 assists) paced the attack.
“It was a nice victory for the four seniors: Danielle Falcone, Adriana Moreno, Katie McAteer and Daisy Klink,” Carter said.
White Plains (4-4) wrapped up the regular season at Byram Hills on Monday.
“We are progressing nicely despite the early losses,” Carter said. “They are understanding how to handle pressure, maintain mental toughness and play together as a team despite us being a young team.”