Brewster, Panas, Byram Hills, Pleasantville, White Plains Ousted in Finals
By Ray Gallagher
Examiner Sports Editor @Directrays
& Rob DiAntonio @RJD_Photos
In a year unlike any other in Section 1 history, there was plenty to be thankful for when Championship Saturday commenced and concluded in the culminating events that saw a slew of Examiner-region teams compete in their respective regional championships. COVID-19 restrictions forced the Section 1 Executive Committee and athletic directors to scramble all season and had forced most parents and fans to watch the games from their laptops and viewing stations. Within the final week of the season, though, Section 1 allowed the parents of senior players to watch the action live, adding the element of fanfare, which players and coaches genuinely enjoyed throughout the eight locally regionalized tournaments.
Putnam-Northern Westchester Small School
No. 2 PUTNAM VALLEY (11-2) and top-seeded host WALTER PANAS (13-2) know each other inside-out, having played CYO and AAU ball together and building the relationships that come with competition. While the mutual respect was evident throughout Saturday’s championship, nothing mattered more than the W, especially when defending Section 1 Class B champion PV took over in the fourth quarter of a 52-40 win over the Class A Panthers.
Behind a suffocating defense and a ripped second half from sophomore G Eva DeChent (game-high 22 points, 11 rebounds) and senior F Arianna Stockinger (21 points, 8 caroms, 2 blocks), the Tigers took control in the fourth quarter and eased their way to a second-straight title after never winning one previously.
“That’s just typical Putnam Valley defense,” said the Pace-bound Stockinger, who hit 11 of 14 from the charity stripe. “Our thing is defense, even when things aren’t going our way. We play Putnam Valley defense for four quarters and today it showed. We made the most of this mini season and played today just like it was a gold ball game and to beat a Class A team like Panas is just such a great feeling.”
A dual defensive battle ensued throughout the first half before PV’s relentless pressure and superior rebounding wore the Panthers down.
“Both teams really played a great defensive first half,” PV Coach Kristi Dini said. “I told my girls at halftime that we just held a championship-caliber team to 20 points, but we’ve got to start putting the ball in the basket. We had to match our offensive effort with our defensive intensity on the other end. But we got big stops when it counted instead of trading baskets. I’m just happy that they stepped up.”
“I told Eva at halftime that we are going to win this game only if you step up and take over,” added Dini, who has mentored DeChent since the first grade. “She took over beyond expectations; she went to the rim, took threes with a hand in her face, dominated the boards. That’s the division one basketball player that we know and love.”
Tigers Amanda Orlando (4 points, 7 boards), Natalie Mazza (8 boards, tough D) and Nai Torres (5 4th-quarter points) added some clutch shots and/or prime minutes.
“Torres plays basketball year round,” Dini said. “Sometimes, offensively, we’re relying on the same three girls, and I told her you don’t need to score 20, you just need to play team basketball and hit the open shot when it presents itself.”
Panas might have been blown out if not for a monster effort from eighth-grader Cadence Nicholas, who dropped a team-high 17 points. Panas senior G Kristen Cinquina added 12 points for Panas but was a point of emphasis in the fourth quarter before both she and Stockinger fouled out to end their tremendous high school careers.
“Arianna is a top five player, at least, in Putnam Valley history,” Dini said. “She’s always given us 12-13 points a game and been the best defensive player on the court, but this year she’s had seven, eight games with 20-26… to think that I’ll never be on a sideline with her again is crazy. The kid is just so special, even the coaches we play against just talk about her class. She’s the first kid to help an opponent off the floor and the first kid to get hyped if a teammate makes a good play. I’m bad cop and she’s good cop, and we reiterate the same message, just differently. That’s a leader, and, trust me, she is going to have an unbelievable career at Pace.”
When Panas lost point guard Alex Sudol to a knee injury early in the third quarter, the Panther seemed a bit discombobulated. The effects were evident.
“I do think Sudol getting hurt definitely emotionally hurt us,” Panas Coach Matt Evangelista said. “That is definitely not to take away from PV. They found another gear in the late third and fourth quarters. DeChent became much more aggressive. We were doing a pretty good job on her until she became much more assertive during that time. She made lots of clutch shots. Torres stepped up and hit those two big shots in the fourth as well. Stockinger was so tough the whole game. She single-handedly got three or four of our players in foul trouble.”
En route to the title, Panas avenged its only regular-season loss in a 70-40 semifinal win over No.4 LAKELAND last Thursday. Nolan scored 23 points to pace the Panthers. Cregan posted a double-double (12 points, 12 rebounds) and Cinquina dropped a dozen. Eighth-grader Cadence Nicholas chipped in with 10 points and five rebounds for Panas. Lakeland’s Hannah Devane scored 14 points and Tyler Hormazabal, who scored the game-winning buzzer-beater in the quarters, finished with 10.
In the opening round, Lakeland beat No.5 CROTON-HARMON at the buzzer, 62-61. Hormazabal had the heroics going and finished with 15. Amanda Cole (13 points, 9 boards), Nichole Ljuljic (12 points) and Sarah Pinkowski (9) also chipped in for the Hornets.
“It was just an amazing all-around effort from both squads,” Lakeland Coach Miranda Mangan said. “Everyone really left it all on the court.”
Emma Windrum led Croton with 23 points and Lucia Thoreson added 17.
In Putnam Valley’s 51-31 semifinal win over No.3 BRIARCLIFF, Stockinger hit for 27 points, one off her career high. DeChent went for 15 points.
Briarcliff Coach Don Hamlin concluded a storied coaching career last week. Hamlin finished with over 400 wins, numerous section final appearances and a state and Federation title.
Briarcliff cruised past sixth-seeded North Salem 60-30 in Wednesday’s quarterfinals. Jordan Smith (20 points) and Cat Carrafiello (14 points) led the way.
The Bears finished 5-3 in Hamlin’s final season.
“Many thanks to all in Section 1 and New York State that made this journey amazing,” Hamlin wrote on Twitter. “You will always be in my heart. I feel incredibly blessed to have shared this journey with you all. To my Bears family, I love you.”
In PV’s 56-46 opening-round win over then-defending Class A champion Hen Hud, DeChent was a menace, scoring 27 points, five blocks and five steals in a well-rounded effort. Orlando had 16 points. No.7 Hen Hud was led by eighth-grader Kaitlin Raguso (20 points), who has one heck of a bright future, as do many promising youngsters in the region.
Putnam-Northern Westchester Large School Group
There were more than just Putnam County bragging rights on the line when No. 2 BREWSTER (9-4) visited No.1 MAHOPAC (12-1) in Saturday’s regional championship, and Mahopac grabbed those rights and more behind an impressive 77-39 wire-to-wire regional title win.
Mahopac’s senior duo of Mia Klammer (18 points, five assists) and Caitlyn O’Boyle (16 points, 10 rebounds, 5 blocks) shined in their final high school game. Mahopac cruised to a 23-7 lead against an improving Brewster program and never looked back.
“It really was a great feeling to win like that,” the Tufts-bound O’Boyle said. “I wouldn’t have wanted my last game to go any other way. It was a great season, even with all the changes, and I’m just so grateful we got to play at all. It was all-around a great day for us, and it was really nice to leave the court with the seniors like that: A perfect ending. I’m looking forward to seeing what the team will accomplish over the next coming years, they’re definitely a great group.”
Mahopac Coach Chuck Scozzafava had seen this quick start before, ignited by his two shining seniors and a complementary cast that could have challenged for a Section 1 Class AA title in a normal season.
“It was a great year and I am so proud of everyone,” the veteran coach said. ”Caitlyn and Mia set the tone for how we played and both had great years. Caitlyn was just dominating on the boards and just protecting the paint. Caitlyn averaged 12 rebound and 2.5 blocks. Mia’s defensive play was excellent again this year. She’s the type of player who can make an impact on a game and she doesn’t have to score. We always put her on the best player. She led the team in scoring with 11.5 points per game as well as 3.3 assist per game and 3.1 steals.”
“It was great to see the seniors go out as regional champs during this shortened season,” Coach Scozz continued. “Lauren Beberman was big for us all year averaging 10.5 PPG as well as 2.3 assist and two steals per game. Julie DeBrocky did a great job as a first-year starter averaging just around 10 PPG. Mel DeMeo did a great job running the point averaging 7 PPG and 3.5 assists. Kristina Rush did a good job coming in off the bench to get us some instant offense, while improving defensively.”
Brewster F Grace Galgano capped an incredible junior season with 15 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks in defeat. Bear seniors Alexis Mark and Carly DeLanoy each had nine apiece in their finale.
“It was the worst case scenario for us,” Brewster Coach Mike Castaldo admitted. “Mahopac did not miss, we got in foul trouble and turned the ball over. I was really surprised how we played. We had such great energy in warm-ups but it did not carry over into the game. Mahopac just hit us in the mouth and we never recovered. They are an unbelievable team and proved they deserved the 1 seed and the championship. However, I am so proud of our girls. We won so many close games this year, and we had two huge wins in the playoffs. We just lost to the best team.”
Galgano ended the season with eye-popping numbers (17.5 PPG, 15 RPG, 5.2 BPG) while Mark finished the season with 11.3 PPG and 8.5 RPG.
En route to the title, Mahopac handed OSSINING its worst playoff defeat in over a decade, an 83-49 setback that left Pride Coach Dan Ricci in a bit of awe as the Indians hit their highest scoring total of the season against a traditionally stingy defense.
“Mahopac had real good balance throughout the lineup,” Ricci said. “They were a very cohesive unit.”
Beberman had the game of her life, scoring a career-high 26 points and DeBrocky (14 points) hit four critical 3’s in a fiery start to the game. ‘Bebes’ added seven assists, six rebounds and four steals.
DeMeo added eight points and seven assists at the point. O’Boyle scored just four points but snagged 11 caroms. Klammer was everywhere, finishing with nine points, four boards and four dimes. Rush was instant energy off the bench, scoring a dozen.
The Pride (7-7) made one key run to keep it close (at 48-34), but the Indians smothered Ossining hotshot Tyler Dendy, holding the senior guard to just nine points, 21 off her season average. Ede Walker led the Pride with 12 points.
In Mahopac’s 81-25 opening-round win over No.8 CARMEL, DeMeo and Debrocky each scored 12 points while Beberman added 11.
In Brewster’s 40-31 win over No.6 SOMERS, the Bears used a 17-4 third-quarter run for a double-digit lead going into the fourth quarter.
“We never looked back after that,” Castaldo said. “Somers is so tough, and well coached. It means a lot to beat a team like that, especially in the playoffs.”
Galgano posted game-high in points (14), boards (19) and blocks (7). Mark added nine points while Dakin had eight. Somers was led by Ava Giudice (8 points). The Tuskers advanced to the semis after knocking off FOX LANE in the quarters.
In Brewster’s 53-45 opening round win over John Jay, Galgano posted one of the most impressive triple-doubles in school history, dropping game-highs in points (28), rebounds (15) and blocks (11). Mark added 10 points and eight boards and Madison Dakin added eight points.
“It looked like we would cruise to an easy win when we built a 15 point third quarter lead, but John Jay was able to turn us over and get easy layups and eventually cut the lead to two,” Casraldo said. “Galgano hit a huge 3-pointer with just over a minute to go for a 51-45 lead and we held on to win.”
No.3 FOX LANE staged (8-5) a furious rally but came up short in a 43-38 loss to sixth-seeded Somers in the quarterfinals of the Putnam-Northern Westchester large school tournament last Wednesday.
Fox Lane senior Natalie Pence left her mark on the program, surpassing the school’s all-time scoring record last week. Pence finished her career with 1,239 points. She surpassed the record when she dropped 23 points in a 66-46 loss to visiting Walter Panas last Tuesday. Pence also had 12 rebounds, four assists, three steals and two blocks.
“Natalie’s legacy is going to be etched in stone right up there with the other greats who helped Fox Lane emerge from irrelevance,” Foxes coach Kris Matts said. “Fox Lane has always been a small program but the hearts of the girls who built it are not small at all. Natalie fits right beside them.”
The history making bucket came late in the first half on a drive to the hoop and left-handed finish to surpass previous record holder Maria Violante.
“She will leave a gaping hole in leadership, offense, defense and poise,” Matts said of Pence. “But she also helped plant the seeds of the next generation to fill that hole. Every girl that saw how hard she played and how hard she worked will know what it takes to succeed, what it means to be a Fox Lane basketball player. It is a high standard, but that is Natalie Pence.”
Pence was a five-year varsity player and came off the bench as an eighth-grader. Violante was a mentor for Pence and took her under her wing as an eighth-grader. Pence, in turn, did the same for an eighth-grader on this season’s Fox Lane team in Cara Drapala.
Southern Westchester Group 3
A quarterfinal blowout loss two years ago at Irvington was on the minds of PLEASANTVILLE players when the Panthers were matched up with the Bulldogs in the Southern Westchester Group 3 regional playoffs.
Pleasantville wanted revenge.
They found it when senior guard Jenna McAllister was fouled on a drive and hit two free throws with one second left to propel second-seeded Pleasantville to a thrilling 53-51 semifinal win over No. 3 Irvington on Thursday.
“A lot of us were on the team two years ago when I was a sophomore and we played Irvington,” McAllister said. “They completely crushed us. Our whole motto this whole time has been that we want revenge. We were like, ‘This is our game to win.’ We were down so we really had to step it up in the second half.”
The teams traded the lead back and forth in the fourth quarter. Julia O’Reilly, who finished with 10 points, hit her second 3-pointer of the quarter to give the host Panthers a 51-47 lead with 1:30 to play.
Irvington answered with a bucket then Grace Thybulle tied the game at 51-51 with 19.2 seconds left.
Pleasantville coach Dillon Clark called a timeout, setting the stage for McAllister’s late-game clutch free throws.
“I was really nervous (at the foul line) but my teammates really reassured me,” McAllister said. “They were like, ‘Hey, no matter what we’ve got your back. We’ll get them in OT then.’”
Overtime wasn’t needed.
“Jenna’s the smartest basketball player in the school and has been for a couple years,” Clark said. “She made a winning play because she’s a winner.”
Irvington, which is two years removed from a Class B state championship, had a towering height advantage over the Panthers, led by Thybulle, a 6-foot-2 Yale-bound senior. Pleasantville’s tallest player stands well under 6-feet tall but the scrappy Panthers make up for the lack of height with heart and hustle.
“Our main game plan was just to crash in on them and try to get a body on them,” McAllister said. “We knew they were going to get some offensive rebounds. We just had to deal with that and hope our offense was better and in the end it was.”
McAllister led the Panthers with a team-high 15 points while Mary Grace O’Neill added 13 points. Thybulle had a game-high 22 points for the Bulldogs.
“It’s a tremendous win for the program,” Clark said. “It just shows how committed these girls have been. We did Zoom workouts over winter break and didn’t know if we were going to have a season but they persevered. The mantra was always, whatever opportunity we were blessed with that’s what we were going to do.”
Pleasantville advanced to the championship game but fell to top-seeded Hastings 68-52 on the road on Saturday. The Panthers trailed 36-16 at halftime.
O’Neill (15 points), McAllister (13 points) and Tina Matica (9 points) paced the Panthers, who finished the season with a 10-3 record.
“We’ve been close forever and I feel like our hustle is always there,” McAllister said when asked what made the Panthers a special team this year. “I feel like we always know where each other is on the court. We know who’s hitting shots and who’s doing well on defense.”
Southern Westchester Group 2
Top-seeded BYRAM HILLS reached the Southern Westchester Group 2 regional final, but fell to second-seeded Rye, 59-57, in a thrilling game that went down to the wire.
The host Bobcats got off to a slow start and trailed 31-16 at halftime but battled back in the second half behind Beth Corelli, who finished with a game-high 19 points. She also had eight rebounds, four assists and three steals.
“At halftime, our message to the team was to fight back with heart and that we needed more effort from everyone,” Bobcats coach Tara Ryan said. “We knew that Rye had the advantage with height so we needed to do the little things to help us get more rebounds and steals. Once we started working as a team in the second half, we played like the Byram Hills we know we are.”
Grace Corelli was fouled on a 3-pointer with 2:48 to play and made all three to tie the game up at 54-54. The Garnets went up 57-54 but Beth Corelli’s left wing three tied the game up again with a minute left.
Amanda Latkany, Rye’s star forward, grabbed her own rebound and finished with 13 seconds to go to give the Garnets a 59-57 lead. Rye, a much taller squad, consistently hurt the Bobcats on the offensive glass.
“The first half really hurt us with our lack of rebounding,” Ryan said. “During the final minutes, we did the best we could against Amanda. You can’t teach height.”
Byram was unable to score on its next possession but the Bobcats forced a turnover with under 10 seconds to go. Olivia Picca passed ahead to Grace Corelli, who found sister Beth Corelli but she missed a left-handed layup. Olivia Barry grabbed the rebound and was fouled with a second remaining. She missed the first and intentionally missed the second shot, but Rye grabbed the rebound and the clock struck zero.
“Our press really rattled them and we had some great shots and steals down the stretch that tied the game and we had two opportunities to win,” Ryan said. “The ball just didn’t fall for us, that’s how sports go. It was a fantastic and fun comeback.”
Barry notched nine points and five rebounds while Grace Corelli and Picca (8 rebounds) added eight points each.
In a 49-40 win over fourth-seeded Harrison in Thursday’s semifinals, Beth Corelli (12 points, 8 boards, 4 assists, 3 steals), Grace Corelli (13 points, 4 assists, 4 steals) and Picca (7 points, 12 rebounds) paced the Bobcats.
“The Corelli sisters are just a force to be reckoned with on defense and just feed off each other on offense,” Ryan said. “It’s a sister bond that you just can’t teach.”
Byram routed Edgemont 70-22 in the quarterfinals on Wednesday behind 13 points from Barry. Beth Corelli added 11 points and Kiley Blackman had 10.
It was an impressive season for a Bobcats team that got off to a 6-0 start and finished with an 8-2 record.
“I think we are one of the most underrated teams this season,” Ryan said. “We had terrific returners along with new players that gave our team amazing grit. We have one of the best guards in the section, Beth Corelli, and amazing hustle and skill out of seniors Olivia Picca and Gabby Ripka. I am completely impressed with what our team did in the short five weeks. We had eight days in quarantine, lost three key starters (from last season) and had a 20 point comeback in the finals with an opportunity to win. I couldn’t ask for a better group of young women and coaching staff to go on this journey with.”
Southern Westchester Group 1
Third-seeded WHITE PLAINS made an impressive run to the Southern Westchester Group 1 championship game but ran into a buzzsaw in top-seeded Ursuline. The Tigers fell to the host Koalas, 84-45, and had a six game winning streak end.
Notre-Dame bound Sonia Citron ended her career with Ursuline, tallying 27 points, 20 rebounds and seven assists. Ursuline, last year’s Section 1 Class AA champion, won its 38th consecutive game.
White Plains sophomore Aliya McIver sparked the Tigers with a team-high 16 points. She also had five rebounds and three assists. Freshman Ineivi Plata added nine points for a young White Plains team, which ended the season with a 7-4 record after a slow start.
“We increased the skill work and conditioning,” White Plains coach Benji Carter said of the Tigers’ improvement from the beginning of the season. “We had an honest conversation about what they lacked because we were getting out-worked by teams with lesser talent. The coaching staff pushed them to build up a strong mentality. We needed them to master their emotions so that productivity can increase. It led to us going on a six-game win streak and playing Ursuline in the championship. I love their progress and growth.”
In the semifinals, White Plains avenged a regular season loss to Scarsdale, handily disposing of the second-seeded Raiders, 57-34.
“After having my team watch film, it showed how not to take any team for granted moving forward,” Carter said of what they learned from the first meeting. “We had to increase our energy knowing that Scarsdale had ambition to beat us again. I kept preaching we were the better team and needed to stay motivated and execute for 32 minutes. We didn’t have time to come up with excuses anymore. They understood and fought back for a smooth victory.”
Senior Katie McAteer paced White Plains with a game-high 16 points. Plata (15 points) and McIver (13 points, 12 rebounds, 7 assists) were also key contributors.
“Katie McAteer was a spark plug,” Carter said. “She came in the game making defensive plays and knocked down three threes and hit a half-court shot going into the half. The team was motivated from her energy and we needed that leadership from our senior captain. It was fun to watch. Ineivi Plata has been putting up good numbers along with her energy and toughness she brings to every game. She’s a warrior. Aliya McIver started off slow but found her groove in the second quarter.”
White Plains crushed sixth-seeded Port Chester 81-36 in the quarterfinals on Wednesday. Plata (21 points, 6 assists) and McIver (13 points, 12 assists) led the way.
The Tigers also came from behind to defeat host Byram Hills, 67-64, in their regular season finale last Monday. Plata (22 points, 6 assists), McIver (18 points) and Sequoia Layne (13 points) sparked the offense.