News Based on facts, either observed and verified directly by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.
By Tony Pinciaro
It’s appearing to be a case of deja vu for WHITE PLAINS.
Last year, the Tigers hit their stride as 2023 arrived and they rode the wave to the New York State Class AA championship game.
This season, a young White Plains’ team was off to a slow start. However, once the calendar turned to 2024, the Tigers, once again, began a winning streak, which is currently ongoing. White Plains swept the week, two victories over Horace Greeley and it beat Ossining to clinch its third consecutive league title.
The Tigers are 14-5 overall and 7-0 in league play. They conclude the regular season this week.
The Section 1 Girls’ Basketball Championships begin next week across six classes – AAA, AA, A, B, C D.
Senior and point guard Ineivi Plata understood the first month was going to be an adjustment period for White Plains.
“We are a really young team and at the beginning it was hard for the underclassmen to come along with the system,” said Plata, who is averaging 17.9 points , six assists, 4.6 rebounds and four steals per game. “It was hard for them to show what they were capable of doing.”
As December progressed, Plata could see the younger players were improving daily. The turning point of the season occurred at the Slam-Dunk Showcase when the Tigers beat a solid Rye team.
“That game we felt more confident with ourselves,” Plata said.
White Plains also added a win against Boys and Girls High School of Brooklyn in which the Tigers held the host to a season-low 42 points.
While Plata and fellow senior Sequioa Layne are the team leaders and two leading scorers, others have stepped up and become offensive options, specifically Tess Haddad and Isabella McGuire.
“We have been playing well because of all of the hard work and dedication we are putting in during practice,” Plata said. “The confidence and chemistry we have is making us all play well.”
White Plains beat Greeley, 51-33, then completed the two-game set with a victory on Senior Night. White Plains also honored former White Plains’ varsity girls’ basketball Coach Sue Adams, who passed away last year.’
Layne led the Tigers with 19 points, eight rebounds and eight steals. Plata added 18 points and eight assists. McGuire chipped in eight points and five rebounds.
The Tigers overcame an excellent Ossining team, 46-39, behind 13 points from Haddad.
“It was a tough, hard-fought game by both teams,” White Plains’ Coach Benj Carter said. “Ossining’s game-plan was superb. It forced many turnovers that went in their favor for easy baskets. They even took the lead from us going into the fourth quarter.
“We found a way to make some plays offensively, hitting some big shots from Tess (Haddad). That got us the lead back in the fourth quarter. Defensively, we got some key blocks from Sequoia and steals by Ineivi. It was a great adversity win for us, especially when we didn’t play our best.
Plata finished with 12 points, six assists and seven steals and Layne had a near triple-double with 10 points, 11 rebounds and seven blocked shots.
Haddad paced the Tigers on Senior Night with a game-high 18 points. Plata contributed 16 points, eight rebounds, five rebounds and five steals and Layne had nine points, 12 rebounds and four steals.
White Plains is hoping to continue this streak into sectionals and hopefully the states.
“It’s a feeling we want to repeat this year and we are working hard to make it happen,” Plata said.
WESTLAKE won three of its first nine games with losses coming to some of Section 1’s elite programs. Once January started, the Wildcats have been roaring, winning eight of their last nine games.
The Wildcats added three more wins to this streak – over Pleasantville (50-36), Rye Neck (47-30) and at Blind Brook (53-45).
Olivia Celaj and Brooke Pfeiffer fueled Westlake with 18 points apiece against rival Pleasantville. Westlake led Rye Neck by two points at the half, but it outscored the Panthers, 20-8, in the third quarter to seize control.
“We moved the ball effectively and that created offensive opportunities for us,” said Pfeiffer of the third-quarter run.
Pfeiffer scored a game-best 22 points and Maggie Plotkin added 15 points.
Westlake used a big fourth quarter – 22 points – to beat Blind Brook. Pfeiffer said it was initiated by a Bella Pastilla 3-pointer as the third quarter closed.
“That closed the gap to within two points after a very tough quarter,” Pfeiffer said. “That 3 catapulted us to work harder and trust one another even more on the court in the fourth.
“We stopped forcing the ball and that led to good shots for all of us which ultimately helped us pull away from a gear team. It felt good, but we have to remain humble and hungry because we see them again next week.”
Pfeiffer netted 22 points, Celaj contributed 14 points and Pastilha added 12 points.
BYRAM HILLS added two more wins to the ledger and did so with staunch defensive performances. The Bobcats held John Jay-Cross River (40-20) and Brewster (42-30) to a combined 50 points.
Grace Corelli finished with 17 points and Paige Schiliro added eight points against John Jay.
“Our defense clicked, to say the least,” Byram Hills’ Coach Taray Ryan said. “We were able to rotate and slow down John Jay in our zone rotations, and get a ton of defensive rebounds. This was a goal for us going into this game. This is a team that we did not want to give second-chance shots to.
“Senior Alana Vataj and junior Darien Messina helped control the boards in this win. Paige Schilio, Grace Corelli and Hailey Sirkin applied a ton of pressure from the top of the zone. It was our best defensive game we have had all season.”
Corelli scored 14 points and Vataj added nine points against Brewster.
HEN HUD beat Panas (54-31) to earn a share of the league title with the Panthers as Kaitlyn Raguso had 21 points, eight rebounds and nine steals and Elyse Smith added 19 points and six assists. The Sailors led 26-19 at the half and held Panas to 12 points in the second half.
Hen Hud followed with a victory over Croton for its 12th win of the season in Saturday’s Gazette Cup game.
Hen Hud is at John Jay-Cross River (Monday), hosts Ossining (Tuesday) and travels to Sleepy Hollow (Thursday) to close out the regular season.
YORKTOWN ran its winning streak to four consecutive games after beating Carmel, Port Chester (56-37) and John Jay-Cross River (49-33).
“After losing six seniors, including three seniors and our leading scorer, we knew we’d have to work even harder every day and play sharper,” Yorktown Coach Kristi Dini said. “The first few games we were excited, then we hit some bumps and injuries that set us back.
“The last 5-6 games we’ve turned it around. We’ve had some kids really step up and now we have our full roster playing again. Four wins in-a-row and the defensive effort has been off the charts.”
K.J. Judge led Yorktown with 15 points and 10 rebounds and Lexi Livadhi and Ava Costello added 10 points apiece against Carmel.
Judge scored a game-high 22 points against Port Chester. Olivia DelGaudio posted a double-double with career-highs in points and rebounds – 16 and 21, respectively.
Judge poured in a career-high 30 points and added nine rebounds and Livadhi had a pair of 10s – points and rebounds – against John Jay.
“I have to acknowledge K.J., who’s been a tremendous leader,” Dini said. “She guards the best players on every team and I would bet has taken the most charges in the section.”
OSSINING began the week with a tough league loss to White Plains (46-39), but the Pride responded with decisive wins over Fox Lane and Irvington.
The victory over Irvington was in the annual Pauline Ricci Classic, in honor of Ossining Coach Dan Ricci’s late mother. The victory came two days after legendary Irvington Coach Gina Maher registered her 800th varsity win.
Zoey Jowers led Ossining with 12 points, Claire Schnecker scored eight points and Saniya Bell grabbed nine rebounds.
Bell paced the Pride with 17 points and added 11 rebounds against Fox Lane. Ty’asia Carver finished with 11 points and five assists and Jowers scored 10 points. Nicole Perriott and Schnecker controlled the boards with 16 and 11 rebounds, respectively.
Ossining seized command against Irvington, outscoring the Bulldogs by 16 in the opening quarter. Schnecker finished with 20 points, six rebounds and five assists. Carver added 17 points and Perriott collected 11 rebounds.
Ossining, 10-7, closes the regular season with Hen Hud, (Tuesday), Greeley (Thursday) and Mamaroneck (Saturday).
BREWSTER won its first two games of the week over Fox Lane (58-42) and Somers (35-27). But, Byram Hills ruined the Bears’ perfect week with a 42-30 victory.
Olivia Francis registered a game-high 20 points against Fox Lane and Bri Franklin and Jordan Niles each scored 12 points.
“We did a great job of taking better shots in the second half and making extra passes to get open shots,” Brewster Coach Mike Castaldo said. “We were rushing in the first half, forcing shots and allowing Fox Lane to get out and run.
“At Somers, I was proud of our team defense and rotations in our zone. All the girls did an excellent job defensively and forced Somers into some difficult shots.”
Francis scored a team-high 11 points against Somers and Ava Fagin had five points, six rebounds and five steals.
“Byram Hills played a great defensive game and made some adjustments from the first time we played,” Castaldo said. “We simply did not make any shots and Byram Hills dominated the boards.”
PUTNAM VALLEY ran its winning streak to 10 consecutive games after triumphs over Croton (56-38) and Dobbs Ferry (55-38).
Nai Torres registered a game-high 19 points against Croton.
Jona Kabashi scored 22 points and had eight rebounds and Brianna Foody added 13 points, six rebounds and four assists against Dobbs Ferry.
LAKELAND went 1-1 in two games, beating John Jay-East Fishkill (60-54), but losing to district rival Panas (55-45) in the Giglio Games.
Riley Waters scored a career-high 23 points in the win. Ava Lugo added 19 points and Nichole Ljulic scored 15 points.
Ljuljic, who is just shy of 1,000 career points and expected to hit the milestone last night, netted 24 points and Lugo chipped in 13 points against Panas.
PANAS scored a season-low 31 points in a loss to Hen Hud as Cadence Nicholas was limited to nine points.
The reigning NYS Class A champion Panthers, 15-3 this season, came back in their next game to beat district-rival Lakeland, 55-45, in the Giglio Games.
Nicholas scored 22 points and snared eight rebounds. Katie Hofmann rang up a season-high 17 points and Sofia Tavarez added 11 points and seven assists.
ANDY JACOBS/DAVID TABER/TONY HUMBERTO PHOTOS
Examiner Media – Keeping you informed with professionally-reported local news, features, and sports coverage.