When the Garnets Girls’ Basketball team took the court at the Westchester County Center for their semifinal tournament clash the afternoon of February 26, they faced the second-seeded Lady Falcons of Albertus Magnus, fresh off a quarterfinal victory over Somers.
By Mitch Silver
When the Garnets Girls’ Basketball team took the court at the Westchester County Center for their semifinal tournament clash the afternoon of February 26, they faced the second-seeded Lady Falcons of Albertus Magnus, fresh off a quarterfinal victory over Somers. In addition, directly across the way were 20 Albertus Magnus cheerleaders, singing, clapping, and stamping their feet. Up in the balcony was a large part of the male Albertus student body, released early from school and screaming imprecations.
For most of the first period, the Falcons preyed on the Garnets. When they weren’t penetrating Rye’s man-to-man defense for layups, they were hitting threes from the top of the arc. It was 11-3 and then 16-6 as Albertus denied Rye breathing room with their lightning quick 2-3 zone. By the time it was 22-8, the thundering PA system was playing Haddaway’s “What is Love” dance track, the one with the refrain, “Baby don’t hurt me, don’t hurt me no more.”
Maybe it was the music. Maybe it was Coach Hurlie’s inspiring words. Whatever it was, the second quarter saw the Garnets start putting the hurt on their Rockland County opponents. First Maddie Eck drove the lane from the left side for two. Then Katie Popp did the same from the right. Rye’s D forced Albertus into a couple of traveling calls. Finally, seconds before the half ended, another Eck layup had Rye down by single digits, 24-15. Albertus Magnus had scored just two points in eight minutes.
It all must have seemed familiar to Rye’s girls, who spotted Pelham and Sleepy Hollow similar leads before roaring back to win their previous games.
It certainly looked like déjà vu all over again when an immediate Eck layup, a bucket by Laura Ann Pacos, and one of Alanna Morque’s four trifectas pulled the Garnets back to four down, 26-22. Albertus pushed the margin back to 31-22. But then Hannah Billingsley & Co. really started working down low, blocking out and diving for loose balls. A Rachel Egan three and a sweet Eck post move before the buzzer made it anyone’s ball game, 34-31.
Turns out it was guard Maddy McGrath’s game. Despite losing standout Kelly Guarino to a torn ACL late in the season, the Falcons’ backcourt — and especially McGrath — proved too much for Rye in the fourth. Her line on the score sheet showed 26 points, five rebounds, and three assists. In fact, the solidly built 5-foot-6-inch playmaker outscored the Garnets 7-6 all by herself in the final eight minutes, leading the Falcons to a 48-37 decision.
Eck was magnificent, the Rye seniors were stellar, and the whole 16-5 Garnet team produced a great season. Sadly, it’ll be the girls from across the river that will face Peekskill in the Section One finals.