By Melanie Cane
For the second time in three years, the Rye Girls’ Basketball team brought home the Section 1 Class A Gold Ball championship.
The third-seeded Garnets’ journey to the championship against fourth-seeded Harrison began with a come-from-behind buzzer beater against top-seeded Somers at the County Center on February 27.
Sophomore Teaghan Flaherty brought the Garnets within one point of the Tuskers in the final seconds on a heroic four-point play. Then, freshman Amanda Latkany hit a winner for the 50-49 win.
The Garnets matchup against the Huskies, March 3 at Pace Pleasantville, was their third this season. Harrison won both of the previous games by a few points in down-to-the-wire games. For Rye, the third time was the charm.
In a low-scoring first half, the Huskies had a 10-5 lead at the end of the first quarter, but Rye was on fire in the second. Flaherty scored four points and Latkany added six, tying the game on a fast break solo lay-up. The half ended with the score knotted at 16.
Flaherty opened the second half with a three-pointer, but the Huskies quickly jumped ahead on a throwaway pass and a steal. Flaherty hit another three-pointer, which Harrison answered with foul shots. Then Latkany scored on an inside jump shot and drew a foul, which she capitalized on. She stole the ball on the next play, scored, and made the foul shot. Rye took a 28-23 lead into the fourth quarter.
The Garnets extended their lead to 32-26 on shots by Niamh Carty and Latkany, but then play became sloppy and frenetic at Harrison’s basket. The Huskies hit several three-pointers and were back in the lead, 40-38. Flaherty rescued her team with a three-pointer that put Rye up by one with a minute left.
The Garnets forced a turnover, and Flaherty scored on a left-handed hook runner to give her team a three-point lead with 21 seconds on the clock. Harrison scored in the last seconds on an air ball catch and put back.
On Rye’s last possession, Carty converted two free throws. She was fouled when she turned to shoot on a throw-in by Latkany, and the final score was 45-42.
Flaherty, who was named MVP and All Section, scored 17 points, pulled in eight rebounds, with one steal and two assists. Latkany, who was named All Tournament, scored ten points, with four blocks and three steals.
Coach Dennis Hurlie praised Flaherty and Latkany, “They are talented underclassmen who are not waiting their turn to make big plays and win big games. For them, the time is now. They have been so much fun to watch.”
Hurlie credited the team’s defense for limiting the Huskies’ superb players. “Margaret Mitchell was outstanding on Harrison’s top scorer, Avery LaBarbera, all night, and our team did a tremendous job sticking with the defensive game plan and executing so well. When Harrison did not score in transition or on live ball turnovers, they had a very difficult time getting any good looks against us.”
On winning the gold ball for the second time in three years, Coach Hurlie said, “It feels different and it doesn’t. Winning a gold ball — especially in Class A — is a tremendous achievement and the feeling of joy and satisfaction is the same. However, this is a different team and a different year so it is theirs. They own it.”
The Garnets were grateful for the huge fan turnout. “It really helped us to have so many there to cheer us on,” said Hurlie. We don’t always get the benefit of big crowds, but the Garnet faithful came up big when it counted most.”
Flaherty spoke for the team when she said winning the gold ball is a dream come true. “Nobody expected us to compete in the section this year and we used that adversity to drive us every game. Bringing the gold ball back to Rye as a team and doing it against a rival like Harrison made it doubly special.”
On March 6, Rye faced Section 4 champion Seton Catholic Central, last year’s Class B state champion, in the regional semifinals at Johnson City High School in Binghamton. The Garnets’ glorious season ended with a 60-44 loss.
Amanda Latkany (#11), in the key, calling for the ball.
Formidable defender Ellie Dailey
Garnets reacting to their 45-42 victory over Harrison for the Gold Ball.
The County Center scoreboard tells the semifinal story.
The Section 1 champs with their proud coaches
Teaghan Flaherty setting up the game-winning play.