A month and a half ago, Rye Country Day School’s Lady Wildcats faced Westchester power Hackley. Of the first 23 points scored in that game, Hackley made 20.
By Mitch Silver
A month and a half ago, Rye Country Day School’s Lady Wildcats faced Westchester power Hackley. Of the first 23 points scored in that game, Hackley made 20. And though the Cats played tough after that, dropping the contest 51-37, it gave Rye coaches Margaret Scarcella and Jenny Smith pause when they learned they would again face the Hornets in the New York State Association of Independent Schools semifinals.
“We went back to look at the video of that game, and decided to change our defense,” Coach Scarcella said. Instead of a man-to-man, Rye came out in an inverted triangle-and-two Friday night to account for the Hornets’ wing players up top and their big girl down low.
It worked. Instead of 20-3, Rye Country Day trailed by just 8-4 in a low-scoring first quarter. They narrowed that deficit to 20-18 at the half. As Hackley’s head coach would put it after the game, “Rye Country Day is a fearless and scrappy team.”
Nery Mendez and Tara Berger’s sharpshooting kept it close once the second half began. Though Hackley spent much of the period shooting fouls, the Wildcats clawed their way to within one, 29-28 as the buzzer sounded ending the third period.
They were all the way back, knotting the game with 75 seconds to go. “The game was there for the taking,” Coach Scarcella said. “We have nothing to berate ourselves with…we left it all on the court tonight.”
With a minute to go, the Wildcats’ fate was sealed when Mendez, Berger & company were unable to fight through the screen that opened up Hackley’s Jill Dressler for a three-point shot that parted the twine. Country Day’s own three-point attempt just missed, and the final score was 42-38.
Mendez and Berger had 12 points each for the game. Jen Howland had 8, Emily Moran 4 and Taylor Regan 2. Afterwards, Hackley alum Scarcella was upbeat. “The girls held their heads high. We’re going to miss our senior co-Captain Jess Grasso. I have the utmost respect for; her leadership is irreplaceable.”
The Coach won’t have to replace anyone else, though, next season — the rest of her team returns for another bite at the big NYSAIS apple.
On their way to the finals, the Wildcats defeated Poly Prep 48-37 February 26, a game in which they alternated between laxity and domination. It took three timeouts for Scarcella to get her charges going in the first half. Mendez, Berger, and Jen Howland led a 14-0 run at one point, and Rye Country Day continued its strong play in the second half.