By Mitch Silver
Head Coach Margo Hackett sent her team out on the floor January 10 knowing her squad had won only one game in six this young season. Byram Hills, meanwhile, came into Rye’s gym riding a three-game winning streak. The outcome seemed foreordained.
Not so fast. The Garnets, playing in a 2-2-1 zone press, more than held their own in the first quarter. With eighth-grader Paige Tepedino sinking three buckets, all on drives, and sophomore Piper Tenney making a three from beyond the arc, Rye led the Bobcats 17-13.
The Garnets lengthened the lead to start the second period on two straight layups by senior Hannah McGovern. But those were the only points Rye would register for the rest of the half. The Bobcats’ guard Beth Corelli scored seven on her own to help the visitors take a 21-17 lead at the buzzer.
Rye tied the game at 26-all midway through the third quarter, but the Corellis, Beth and Grace, netted a combined ten points to give Byram Hills a 39-34 lead after three. Only the physical play of Tepedino, who barged through the Bobcat defense time and again for four more buckets, and a pair of scores by senior Emily Eckerson, kept the game close.
As the final stanza started, Rye had dropped its press. Coach Hackett later said, “They were breaking it too easily.” Instead, she had her best defender, junior Mackenzie Chimento, harass the player with the ball. Eckerson made a shot in the lane to tighten the game at 42-38, and sophomore guard Maddy Walsh nailed another with under five minutes to go to bring the Garnets within two at 42-40.
The Bobcats hit a three, but Eckerson countered to make it 45-43. Rye won the ball back and Tepedino forced her way in one more time — she would be the game’s high scorer with 21 — to offset a Bobcat free throw and make it a one-point game.
Walsh tied up the Byram Hills dribbler on the next possession. Tepedino was fouled in the act of shooting and made one of two free throws to even the game at 48. With the clock running down, Walsh hounded the ball handler all the way to the end line as time ran out.
Overtime! Byram Hills controlled the jump to start the five-minute session, but Walsh was at it again, stealing the ball and bouncing it off a Bobcat player as she was falling out of bounds. Neither team scored with a couple of possessions before a Kiley Blackmar field goal shoved Byram Hills into the lead. But with Eckerson hitting a foul shot and Tepedino flinging in a running layup with 44.6 seconds to go, the locals were up 51-50.
Walsh, though, was over-aggressive as the clock ran down, fouling Blackmar with 4.6 seconds left. The Bobcat forward calmly hit both free throws, and Byram Hills looked to have the game in hand, 52-51.
Coach Hackett called a play in the huddle for Tepedino, but she was covered, and the ball went to Walsh, who drove and threw up a shot with two seconds left in overtime. It missed, but Chimento grabbed the rebound and put it back in as time expired. Whew! And it was Chimento’s first basket playing on varsity.
After the game. Coach Hackett looked exhausted. “That final play was supposed to go to Paige, but the girls improvised. Big win!”
The Garnet girls next travel to Ardsley on Friday evening, January 14.