Westlake Nips Pleasantville at Buzzer; Sets Up Put Valley Rematch

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By Tony Pinciaro

Brooke Pfeiffer had a split second to make a decision and she did not hesitate.

Westlake sophomore Brooke Pfeiffer drives for two of her game-high 26 points in last Tuesday afternoon’s 58-48 Class B quarterfinal playoff win by the host Wildcats. Pfeiffer erupted for 16 of her points in the third quarter as the fourth-seeded Wildcats took command vs. the fifth-seeded Trojans.

The WESTLAKE sophomore received a pass from Bella Pastilla along the baseline and with seven-tenths of a second remaining in the game, released a shot from approximately 12 feet.

As everyone in the Westchester County Center held their collective breaths, the ball bounced off the inside front of the rim, then off the backboard and in, giving Westlake a thrilling 58-56 win over Pleasantville in a Section 1 Class B semifinal.

The fourth-seeded Wildcats will play second-seeded and three-time defending champion Putnam Valley in the final for the second consecutive year. The final is scheduled for Friday, March 1, 5 p.m.

“The moment happened so fast it didn’t seem real,” said Pfeiffer, who received the in-bounds pass only to lose control of it. “You see those moments on TV, but you don’t really think it’s going to happen to you. I just did my best to get the shot to the rim and give our team a chance to win.”

Pfeiffer made the shot, but Pastilla made it happen. As Pfeiffer drove to the basket, swarmed by Pleasantville defenders forcing her to lose the ball, Pastilla raced to grab it before it went out of bounds. Pastilla immediately passed it to Pfeiffer.

“Bella had such an incredible save which gave me the chance to shoot before the buzzer,” Pfeiffer said. “When I watch the video of the play, I still can’t believe what happened.”

Pfeiffer’s shot capped a wild final 12 seconds as the Panthers appeared to be extending the game to overtime thanks to phenomenal eighth-grader Maddie Becerra. She took the in-bounds pass, drove to the basket and unleashed a left-handed floater while falling away from the basket.

Even though Westlake swept the season-set from Pleasantville, the young Panthers matched Westlake basket for basket thanks to Meghan Raefski, Lexi Tomaselli and Becerra.

Pleasantville was much more physical this game than in the past two,” said Pfeiffer, who scored 21 points. “And their energy level was higher than we had seen before. They really wanted it, but so did we.”

Pleasantville freshman G Lexi Tomaselli gains step on Westlake sophomore Maeve Walsh (30) in Panthers’ 58-56 Class B semifinal loss to Wildcats Saturday at County Center.

Pleasantville, the No. 9 seed, went ahead, 51-48, with 3:03 remaining on a 3-pointer from Raefski. However, on consecutive Westlake possessions, Olivia Celaj and Pfeiffer went 4-for-4 from the line, giving the Wildcats a 55-54 lead. Then Pfeiffer made one of two.

Prior to Celaj and Pfeiffer’s free throws, Westlake was only 14 of 25 from the charity stripe.

“In those moments, you just try to block out everything,” said Pfeiffer of the important made free throws. “You try to take a breath and let your free-throw motion take over like we had done so many times before.”

Westlake returns to the title game with a better understanding of what to expect.

“The biggest thing is just having experience in these situations,” Pfeiffer said. “Last year it was new to the whole team. This year we have returning players who can settle down the new players when the game hits a low part, which happens every game.

“Hopefully, the experience gets us through those low parts of a game.”

Maggie Plotkin scored 16 points and Celaj added 12 points against the Panthers.

Westlake advanced to the County Center as a result of a 58-48 victory over No. 5 Blind Brook in a quarterfinal.

The Wildcats were fueled by a 27-point third quarter.

Pfeiffer poured in a game-best 26 points, followed by Plotkin with 17 points and Celaj added 10 points.

A young PLEASANTVILLE team matured once the calendar turned to 2024 and by February served notice that it was among sectional hierarchy.

The No. 9 Panthers lost to No. 4 Westlake on a last-second shot in the Section 1 Class B championship game putting an end to their run.

Lakeland’s Grace Hahn (L) and Panas’ Katie Hofmann battle for 50-50 ball in 7th-seeded Hornets’ 68-52 Class A playoff loss to No.2 host Panas Wednesday.

The Panthers dispatched No. 8 Dobbs Ferry in a first-round game, then toppled No. 1 Yonkers Montessori School, 46-45, on Faith Brown’s decisive basket.

Pleasantville lost to Westlake twice during the regular season, but the Panthers learned from both games and were a bounce away from overtime.

“Our young squad was ready for the moment,” Pleasantville coach Kelly Guarino said. “I kept repeating myself that as big of a game this is, it’s just a basketball game.

“The girls responded every possession. Unfortunately, the ball just bounced in Westlake’s favor. I’m super proud of the fight and grit of the girls this season.”

Lexi Tomaselli led Pleasantville with 17 points against Westlake. Maddie Becerra finished with 16 points, including the basket that ear-marked the game for overtime and Meghan Raefski scored 15 points.

The rough start to Pleasantville’s season – 0-7 – did not deter the Panthers.

“The girls showed the ability to stay locked in on what we wanted to do,” said Guarino, who played at Albertus Magnus. “There were mistakes that we fixable. The girls remained focused at practice. We weren’t too concerned about our record. It was just a matter of making the postseason.

“In B, it was anyone’s game this season. I was just focused on making the playoffs and I knew we would have the right plan to be in games.”

PUTNAM VALLEY overcame a sluggish first half with an excellent second half to beat third-seeded Croton, 29-21 in a Section 1 Class B semifinal.

Putnam Valley senior G Ava Harman gains baseline for clutch hoop in Tigers’ 29-21 Class B semifinal win over Croton Saturday at County Center.

The Tigers will play fourth-seeded Westlake in the championship game for the second year in-a-row, 5 p.m., Friday, March 1.

Putnam Valley only scored five points in the first half. The Tigers found their offense in the second half , but more impressively was their defense. Putnam Valley held Croton to eight points in the second half.

PV senior Nai Torres led the second half charge and also scored her 1,000th career point earlier in the week.

PANAS is back in familiar territory for a fourth consecutive year – the Section 1 Class A Championships Final Four.

The second-seeded Panthers (18-3) punched their ticket back to the Westchester County Center with a 68-52 victory over No. 7 Lakeland.

It was the Panthers’ third win over their district rival this season as Cadence Nicholas scored a game-high 28 points.

Sofia Tavarez and Katie Hofmann contributed 12 points apiece and Jill Cinquina added nine points.

Panas played No. 6 Tappan Zee in a semifinal, 3 p.m., Monday, 2/26. The other semifinal was No. 6 Hen Hud-No. 1 Pearl River, also Monday, 2/26. The winners play for the Class A title, noon, Saturday, March 2.

The Panthers opened the season with a victory over Tappan Zee. This is the first sectional meeting between the teams since Tappan Zee beat Panas in the 2022 Section 1 Class A title game.

“We know TZ has definitely improved since we played them in the beginning of the year,” Nicholas said. “They have a lot of talent on their squad.

There was no stopping Hen Hud junior Kaitlyn Raguso last Wednesday as she scored a career-high 37 points to lead the Sailors to a 63-48 win over the host Irvington Bulldogs in a Class A quarterfinal playoff game.

“Losing to them two years ago doesn’t anger us because we have grown from that and don’t dwell on the past. Our mentality to be relentless when we next play.”

HEN HUD returned to the Final Four for the first time since Caitlin Weimar led the Sailors to the 2020 Section 1 Class A championship.

Kaitlyn Raguso had a triple-double – 37 points, 14 rebounds and 11 assists – as the No. 6 seed upset Gina Maher and No. 3 Irvington, 63-48.

The Sailors played top-seeded Pearl River in a semifinal, 6:30 p.m., Monday, Feb. 26.

OSSINING made the Westchester County Center it’s unofficial home away from home from 2010-2019 as the Pride were annual final-four participants.

Following it’s 75-68 win over No. 5 North Rockland, the fourth-seeded Pride return to the County Center for the Section 1 Class AAA Championships semifinals.

The Pride will play top-seeded R.C. Ketcham, the 2023 sectional runner-up, 6:30 p.m., Wednesday, 2/28. This game will be preceded by the other semifinal, No. 6 New Rochelle-No. 7 Mamaroneck. New Rochelle upset No. 3 John Jay-East Fishkill and Mamaroneck shocked defending champion and state finalist White Plains.

Senior Nicole Perriott is excited about returning to County Center, especially after winning her final home game.

“It was an incredible feeling to secure a win in my final home game,” said Perriott, who had 14 points, 11 rebounds and eight blocked shots. “We were not playing for ourselves, but more importantly we were playing for each other and I think that was a big factor in the game.”

Perriott was one of four players in double figures. Zoey Jowers led with 20 points and also had nine rebounds, Ty’asia Carver had 18 points and seven assists and Claire Schnecker had a double-double – 16 points and 14 rebounds.

This is Ossining’s first trip back to the final four since 2019.

White Plains star Ineivi Plata did everything she could to get her Tigers to Class AAA semifinals but fell to Mamaroneck in Friday’s quarters.

“The excitement level to return to the County Center is so incredibly high,” Perriott said. “The idea of just playing there is exhilarating. We are eager to showcase our hard work and dedication at the County Center. This is definitely a step in the right direction and I know the Ossining girls’ basketball program will continue to build up from this which is just awesome and I am so happy to be a part of it.”

WHITE PLAINS had its quest for a second consecutive sectional title derailed by No. 7 Mamaroneck, 50-46, in overtime of a Section 1 Class AAA quarterfinal.

The Tigers were without second leading scorer and senior co-captain Sequoia Layne.

“We still felt we had a chance to win despite missing our second leading scorer and top rebounder in Sequoia,” White Plains’ coach Benj Carter said. “Once I realized we would not have Sequoia I made adjustments, but I told the team that’s a big gap missing so we have to be on point, defensively. We needed to limit our mistakes and look to be perfect on every possession.

“We had our chances to win, but when Isabella McGuire fouled out early in the fourth quarter, we lost some toughness defensively and the Mamaroneck big was able to control the paint offensively and defensively. In overtime, we had some costly turnovers and missed 50/50 loose balls that gave Mamaroneck the extra chances to score baskets.”

Despite the loss, White Plains had an excellent past two years. Carter was even more proud of his team this year, considering he only returned two starters – Ineivi Plata and Layne.

“I was super satisfied with our progress,” Carter said. “I knew the beginning of the season would be tough because we were young and only returning two starters. The eighth-graders and freshmen had a lot to learn.

“We were doubted, as usual, but it didn’t matter because each player embraced the adversity and got positive results from it. Our seniors did a great job with their leadership and guidance. Overall, we overachieved, as expected.”

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