By Melanie Cane
For the second time in three years, Rye Country Day School’s Girls’ Basketball team won the NYSAIS Championship tournament. After defeating 6th-seeded Holy Child in the quarterfinals and Poly Prep, the No. 2 seed in the semifinals, the third-seeded Wildcats topped Manhattan’s Trinity School 50-35 for the NYSAIS title on February 27.
The Wildcats dominated the fourth-seeded Tigers from the get-go with a full court press. Taylor Regan scored off the opening jump ball and then the Wildcats stole the ball off a press. Alana Jones drove through traffic, drawing a foul on her jump shot. On the next play the Wildcats forced a walk on Trinity and Jones hit a three-pointer from the right post. The Tigers got on the board four minutes into the quarter on a foul shot. Then CeCe Payne hit a layup off a beautiful pass from Regan. Rye Country Day capitalized on a series of forced turnovers and ended the quarter with a 17-6 lead.
The Wildcats carried their momentum into the second quarter forcing turnovers and getting off multiple shots on each possession. But when Rye Country Day got in foul trouble, Trinity went on a ten-point tear, slashing the Wildcats lead to 27-20 at the half.
Early in the second half, the Tigers hit a three-pointer on a turnover to close the gap to four. During four minutes of frenetic and very physical play, Jones, Payne, and Regan scored eight straight points. After calling a timeout, the Tigers slowed down the pace, executed two nice plays, and ended the quarter down 35-27.
The eight-minute fourth quarter took over a half-hour, because, after the Wildcats pulled away with a 42-28 lead, both teams committed fouls on nearly every other play. Payne started off the scoring on a short shot by Emily Moran. Then Jones and Moran drew four fouls driving to the basket. Trinity went on a short run, but Rye Country Day stood their ground with Payne and Jones drawing five offensive fouls in the final three minutes.
After the game, senior captain Moran, who led the scoring with 16 points, said, “Amazing, I’m so happy!” Fellow senior captain Regan, who scored 12, added, “It’s the best feeling ever. We expected to make it to the semifinals, but we were the underdogs against Poly Prep.”
Wildcats Coach Scottie Nails, who now has two NYSAIS championship titles in his three years at the helm, said the best decision he ever made was assigning Regan to point guard. “I gave her the keys to the car and she drove it right to the championship title.”
Regarding the Trinity game, Nails said the key to the win was getting off to a good start. “We played with intensity employing our press immediately to force turnovers and throw them off their game. Once we had a big cushion, we relaxed, but maybe a little too much!”
The coach credited his three senior captains Moran, Regan, and Payne for the team’s success. “They never gave up, they brought abundant energy and high expectations to the team, and they believed in the system and each other. I am so glad for all the girls.” As for Jones, a freshman, who also contributed 12 points, Nails said, “Alana has a very bright future.”
The winning Wildcats with Coach Scottie Nails
Senior captains CeCe Payne, Emily Moran, and Taylor Regan
Alana Jones with a foul shot
Emily Moran blocking out for rebound
The Wildcats jumping for joy after the win