After winning the Class A Section title, the Garnets topped both Saugerties and Vespal to clinch the regional title.
By Melanie Cane
After winning the Class A Section title, the Garnets topped both Saugerties and Vespal to clinch the regional title. But it wasn’t until the State semifinal March 11, against Floral Park Memorial High, that they faced their biggest hurdle: senior guard Kaela Hillaire. Hillaire, an Albany recruit who averages 38 points a game and has over 2,000 points to her credit.
While Rye’s Maddy Eck played great D and held Hillaire to 26 points, the Knights prevailed 61-55.
Near the end of the first quarter, Rye tied the game at 10, but they spent the rest of the game playing catch up. At the half, the Garnets were down 29-22.
Throughout their 22-5 season, the Garnets were able to pull out all the stops in the second half. But up against Floral Park, their best wasn’t good enough. As Eck said, “We underestimated the abilties of the players surrounding Hillaire. It just wasn’t our day.”
Katie Popp led the Garnets with 18 points. Eck, who scored 15 points and had 14 rebounds, came away with All-Tournament honors. Ali Imam received the Sportsmanship Award. And on top of that, the Garnets received the NYSPHSAA Scholar Athlete Team Award, with a GPA of 94.49. All five Rye High senior players — Eck, Imam, Taylor Maurer, Deirdre Potter, and Lauren Dempsey — were elected members of the National Honor Society.
After the game, Eck shared how proud she is of how well the team did in her last season. “We played our best basketball in the playoffs, which allowed us to beat talented teams by ten or more points. Our defense was stellar in the postseason, just as it had been all season long. We held five out of seven teams we played in the playoffs to under 40 points.” Popp added, “No team worked harder than us this season, or was more determined than us. I am so happy to have shared this experience with such a great group of girls.”
In the words of Coach Dennis Hurlie, “It was an amazing run by a great group of girls. Winning the Class A sectional title — the deepest and most difficult — took an already confident group of girls to another level of confidence. We knew as long as we continued to defend and play together, we could make a run.” He added, “It hurt to get to the state final four and not play for the state title, but I asked the girls to focus on all their accomplishments and the historic ride on which they took the school and the community.”