Putnam Valley 4-Peats, Walter Panas Repeats as Section 1 Champs

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Westlake, Hen Hud, Ossining Eliminated at County Center

By Tony Pinciaro
Members of the Putnam Valley girls’ basketball team, including Sophia Randazzo, Leah Harman, Ella Wendol, Jessica Parubi, Jona Kabashi and Nai Torres, secure the program’s fourth-straight Section 1 Class B championship.

All-Section G Nai Torres and her PUTNAM VALLEY teammates came to a quick realization while watching the game film of their regular-season loss to Westlake. It was alarming and the Tigers would not allow it to happen against Westlake in the Section 1 Class B Championship game.

“We didn’t really emphasize our defense enough in the first game and we allowed too many of them to get wide open looks,” said senior and captain Torres. “The second time around we watched the film back and worked more on taking away what they do best on offense. We wanted to limit their extra possessions off offensive rebounds and take away a lot of their open looks.

“We also put a lot of emphasis on focusing a lot on what side their shooters were on in our zone. It was really about personnel breaking down film and executing our 2-3 zone the way we went over it in practice.”

Unranked by state pollsters, Putnam Valley executed defensively, holding Westlake scoreless for the final 5:37 of the game as the Tigers won their fourth consecutive sectional title, 48-37, at the Westchester County Center.

Putnam Valley senior Ava Harman gains baseline in second-seeded Tigers’ 48-37 Section 1 Class B title triumph of No.4 Westlake Friday at the County Center.

Putnam Valley (16-7), now 15-2 in its last 17 games, will play Section 9 champion Highland in a state regional semifinal, 4:30 p.m., Wednesday, at Yorktown High School. The winner advances to the regional final against the Section 8-Section 11 winner at a date and site to be determined.

First-year Putnam Valley Coach Harrison Deegan becomes the third Tigers’ leader to win a sectional title, joining two-time champ Don Hamlin (2022, ‘23) and former Putnam Valley great Kristi Dini (2021).

Torres was selected the Class B most valuable player and teammates Jona Kobashi (21 points, double-digit boards) and Brianna Foody (7 points) were chosen to the all-tournament team.

Putnam Valley limited Westlake to three made 3-pointers after the Wildcats connected on seven against Pleasantville in their semi-final win. Brooke Pfeiffer’s three to bring Westlake within one point, 38-37, with 5:37 remaining in the game, would be its last points of the game.

“After their run, I turned to Ava (Harman) and told her we needed to get stops and really put pressure on our 2-3 and that’s exactly what we did,” Torres said. “We knew that this game would be all about runs and we just had to keep our composure and answer back to theirs.”

Westlake’s defense made it difficult on Torres to operate, especially in the first half. As a result, Kobashi stepped up and asserted herself in the paint and also defensively, limiting Westlake’s opportunities.

“Jona always makes her presence known in the paint and she’s never been the type of player to back down or let up to another opponent,” Torres said. “She knew we needed a big game from her defensively and she stepped it up and did what it took to help us win the game.

“Jona’s first-half performance definitely fueled us on the defensive end to get stops and keep pushing the ball whenever we could. It started off the game for us with great energy and momentum that we needed.”

In the second half, Westlake began trapping Torres once she crossed half court. No problem as the point guard immediately passed the ball to an open teammate. This resulted in everyone contributing.

Put Valley senior C Jona Kabashi saved her best effort of season for second-seeded Tigers’ 48-37 Class B title win over No.4 Westlake Friday at County Center.

“That opened up shot opportunities for the rest of my teammates,” Torres said. “We just tried to capitalize on getting the rest of the girls involved, slowing down the game and making the extra pass to get easy buckets.

Torres and her teammates understood that opponents were overlooking them, thinking this was the year Putnam Valley was beatable. This was never more evident than after the Tigers’ 0-5 start.

“Going into this game, after the obstacles we faced starting the season, it definitely felt more special,” Torres said. “It’s all we’ve talked about since the season started, even after starting 0-5. We never let up and we knew that it would click and we would have the opportunity to be at the County Center again. It’s also a much better feeling having teams around us doubting our ability to win for the fourth consecutive year, I couldn’t have asked for a better group of girls to accomplish this with.”

Deegan was equally impressed with his team both with its season and title-game performance.

“What impressed me the most was our ability to stay together as a team and remain composed when Westlake went on their run,” said the 26-year-old Deegan. “We struggled to handle runs early in the season and it shows how we matured throughout the year.

“I am very lucky to have amazing players who bought into what kind of culture we want to create with this program. I have been so proud of how the girls bonded together throughout the year and have started to play and care for each other which has led directly to our success on the court.”

Members of the Walter Panas girls’ basketball team cannot wait to get their hands on the highly desired gold ball after the second-seeded Panthers repeated as Section 1 Class A champions.

Even though state-ranked (No.9)  PANAS came into the 2024 Section 1 Class A Championships as the defending champions, the Panthers were determined to prove they were not a one-year wonder.

The Panthers came in as the second seed and following a quarterfinal win against district rival Lakeland, they rallied with the last 12 points of the game to beat Tappan Zee in a semifinal.

Panas carried that momentum into the final, racing out to a big lead then squelching a late Hen Hud comeback for a 59-46 win in the Section 1 Class A final at the Westchester County Center

Panas (20-3) will play Section 9 titleist Red Hook, 6:15 p.m., Tuesday, at Yorktown High School in a state regional semifinal. The victor moves into the regional final, Sunday, at Visions Veterans Memorial Arena in Binghamton, against the Section 4 champion.

“Winning this proves so much to us as a team and each and every one of us,” said tournament most valuable player Sofia Tavarez, who finished with a game-high 23 points. “We accomplished this with pure skill, teamwork and hard work.”

Cadence Nicholas scored 16 points and was selected to the all-tournament team as was Kiara Williams.

The teams split the regular-season set so Panas was prepared for a more determined Hen Hud team. As a result, Panas missed its first seven shots before it received a kick start from Katie Hofmann, who scored nine of her 11 points in the first quarter.

All-Tourney Walter Panas junior Cadence Nicholas takes a run for two points in second-seeded Panthers’ Section 1 Class A title win over Hen Hud Saturday.

“Katie showed how great of a player she is and she is not to be overlooked,” Tavarez said. “Katie really brought the whole team together and really got it started for us.”

Panas opened the second quarter with a 19-6 lead and once Nicholas went to the bench with two fouls, Tavarez took over and began taking the ball to the basket.

“When Cadence was taken out, I really thought I had to step it up,” Tavarez said. “I felt like once I start getting into the zone, this is what I have to do. I focused even more so on the game and continued to stay in the zone.”

Each time Hen Hud made a run it was Tavarez with a key basket, pass or defensive play. The Sailors did close it to 50-44 with 1:47 remaining in the game, forcing Panas Coach Matt Evangelista to call a time out.

“Coach told us to stay calm, don’t rush our shots and reassured us to step it up on defense,” Tavarez explained.

Coming out of the time out, Nicholas drove to the basket and hit a floater. Following a Hen Hud offensive foul, Williams swished a triple for a 55-44 lead with 57 seconds on the clock.

The post-game awards ceremony was sweeter for Panas this year, especially for the captains, Tavarez and Nicholas, as they received the prestigious Gold Ball.

“This was definitely more exciting because the first time I was a bit in shock,” Tavarez said. “This time it sank in that we just won it. Receiving the gold ball was pure enjoyment and also relief. It made us realize we worked this hard and we deserved it.”

WESTLAKE had another excellent regular season and played for the Section 1 Class B title for a second consecutive year. Unfortunately for the Wildcats, it was the second straight year Putnam Valley walked away with the hardware. The second-seeded Tigers beat the fourth-seeded Wildcats, 48-37.

Westlake trailed Putnam Valley, 38-37, following a Brooke Pfeiffer 3-pointer with 5:37 remaining in the game. However, those would be Westlake’s final points of the game.

Westlake had a difficult time from beyond the arc, making just three for the game.

“Put Valley, as we expected, extended their zone,” Westlake Coach Sean Mayer said. “They did a nice job of not letting some of our shooters get set with open looks. When that happened we needed to try and move more without the ball to free ourselves up for some looks, but that was a struggle.”

Even though Westlake was struggling offensively, the Wildcats were right there with 5:37 on the clock. Mayer reassured his team that they were right where they wanted to be.

“Up to that point we trailed much of the game and battled back,” Mayer said. “When we closed it to 1 point I thought we were in a good place and the game would stay that way. I had told the team if it was a close game at the end we had just played three games before where it came down to the final few minutes so I knew we were poised in close games to have a good chance to pull out a win.

“We just did not execute. I thought we rushed and forced a few positions, and had a few turnovers. Putting those together is why we struggled down the stretch.”

Olivia Celaj and Pfeiffer were chosen for the all-tournament team. Celaj and Pfeiffer, along with Maggie Plotkin, return next year for Westlake which has Mayer excited.

“Although it was not the outcome we had hoped for, to get back to the championship game with basically a whole new team was quite an accomplishment,” Mayer said. “Coming into the season, we lost 37 points of offense from the year before graduating Allie Castellone, ToniAnn Mastracchio, and Sami Oswald, all four-year starters, and all able to handle the ball on offense.

“We had nine new players this season playing varsity for the first time. During the season we had a stretch of winning 12 out of 13 games quite remarkable and we won our third straight league championship. For the last three seasons our overall league record is an amazing 27-3. So despite a tough end we did have some major accomplishments and a great season.”

All-Tourney Hen Hud junior Kaitlyn Raguso has full support from her teammates as she clears midcourt in Sailors’ Section 1 Class B title loss to Walter Panas Saturday at the County Center.

HEN HUD earned its way back to the Westchester County Center for the first time since Caitlin Weimar led the Sailors to the 2020 Section 1 Class A title.

The sixth-seeded Sailors manhandled No. 3 Irvington in a quarterfinal then eliminated top-seeded Pearl River in a semi. The state-ranked (No.18) Sailors beat state-ranked (No.6) Pearl River after the Pirates rallied to take a lead, but Hen Hud remained poised and made shots when it was needed.

This earned Hen Hud a trip to the Section 1 Class A final against defending champion and second-seeded Panas.

Hen Hud’s run came to a close in the title game as the Panthers prevailed, 59-46.

The Sailors concluded with a 16–8 record and with a young team returning for the 2024-25 season, they will be among the elite in Class A.

Panas led by 13 points going into the second quarter. Hen Hud was also hampered as leading scorer Kaitlyn Raguso sat the majority of the second quarter with three fouls. Raguso also went scoreless for the first 23:05 of the game.

“We just could not get into our groove,” said first-year Hen Hud Coach Megan Boyle. “We had a plan against their zone and couldn’t execute, specifically using the inside. Also, Panas plays really great pressure defense, half-court, full-court, you name it. I think we struggled to attack gaps and beat it like we have in the past.”

Once Raguso scored her first points, she continued, scoring 16 straight for Hen Hud.

“Kaitlyn’s fouls were really challenging,” Boyle said. “I don’t feel like our offense is 100% Kaitlyn scoring, but she is a key piece of ball movement and rebounding. Her presence on the court changes how people play defense against us. Even when she was in, she couldn’t fully be herself because she was cautious of fouling again. She didn’t ever get a real chance to find her groove until the last quarter.”

Hen Hud was able to make runs at Panas, but in the second half tournament MVP Sofia Tavarez was difficult to handle.

Hen Hud closed to 50-44 with 1:47 on the clock on an Elyse Smith offensive follow and subsequent baseline trey.

Raguso and Smith each scored 16 points. Lexi Robinson and Raguso were chosen to the all-tournament team.

Raguso and Smith headline a returning core next year for Boyle and she is already excited at the thought.

“I’m so impressed with every person on this team, one through 14,” Boyle said. “I was so emotional at the end because I wanted it for them. No one was ever afraid every girl wanted the ball in those big moments. It’s rare you have that in all girls on the team.

“Also, a lot of our success came from creativity on offense and that’s all a credit to them. They took ownership over the team and how they wanted it to play out. You saw that in the Pearl River game with four girls in double digits. I am honestly so proud of them and learned so much in my first year because of them and their openness and wanting to grow.”

Ossining G Ty Asia Carver gains the lane for the Pride, a recent NYSPHSAA Scholar Athlete team honoree, in their Class AAA semifinal setback to defending champion RCK Wednesday at the County Center.

OSSINING returned to a familiar place this season as the Pride advanced to the final four/Westchester County Center for the first time since 2019.

Prior to 2019, the Pride were annual visitors to the Section 1 Class AA final four and won multiple titles. Ossining booked its trip to the County Center with a quarterfinal win over North Rockland. However, top-seeded and eventual Class AAA champion R.C. Ketcham stopped the Pride in a semifinal.

Claire Schnecker led Ossining with 12 points and nine rebounds and Saniya Bell grabbed eight rebounds. The Pride finished with a 13-9 record and will return eight players next year. Senior Nicole Perriott is excited about the future and also to help lead the team back to the final four.

“Overall, this season was great and although we would have loved to win, I wouldn’t change any part of this season for the world and I’m so thankful for everything that Coach Ricci and the Ossining girls’ basketball program has given me,” said Perriott, who averaged 7.4 points per game and had a team-leading 11.1 rebounds a game. “We grew so much as a team on the court and fought through so much adversity. If you were to see us at the start of the season and compare that to where we ended off, you would have thought we were a completely different team.

“It means a lot to the seniors to return to the County Center so this was just the first step. I am confident the team will continue to build off of it for the following years.”


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