I spoke to Gina Maher today and Maher, by her own admission, is lucky. Considering the size of the school and the class it plays in, Irvington has about as much returning from last season as any team in Section 1.
The Bulldogs have been very young the last season, but they were quite a precocious group, reaching back to back Class B semis at the County Center. Maher, as you may remember, had never coached there despite two significant facts: She is the longest-tenured basketball coach in the section and she patrolled the bench for two state championships. Girls didn’t play at the County Center back then. Now that they do, it appears Maher and Irvington are late-winter staples at the White Plains mecca.
Four starters return. And they are all very good. Forward Gillian Morley and Tara Gabelman and guards Riley Harrington and Lisa Bucci. Only Morley is a senior, but all four players have a great deal of experience. They all played the last two seasons, and have practically as much experience as any quartet in the section.
Maher knows it. “All along they were the babies. Now they’re no longer the babies,” she said. “They’re older, and they’re showing it.”
The next youth movement is coming. The Bulldogs have a number of eighth graders and freshmen knocking on the varsity door. Some are already through. In fact, Maher has three eighth graders set to play on either the JV or varsity, and all are very good according to her and others I have spoken to.
A freshman, 5-foot-10 Marley Giddins, played on the JV last year and is expected to play immediately. She actually played point guard on JV, but will likely shift to the post this year. Obviously, Giddens is very versatile, so she should fit in well.
Morley is healthy. It was a frustrating junior season for Morley, who struggled with leg injuries, first in mid-season, and later in the playoffs. Morley was injured in the classic Class B quarterfinal win at Nanuet and simply wasn’t the same at the County Center against Albertus Magnus, a game Irvington ultimately lost. A healthy Morley gives the Bulldogs someone who can score in the post and rebound as well as anyone on the team.
Still, the favorite is a school 20 minutes north and the Bulldogs know it. Undoubtedly, Irvington still begins the season looking up at Briarcliff, the defending Section 1, state and state Federation champ. But the Bulldogs have a chance. They lost one starter, forward Jasmine Macies, a steady contributor and strong team leader. But with the young players no longer so young, Irvington, along with Nanuet, should provide Briarcliff its stiffest competition.
Take a look at Irvington’s schedule. Not to apply the pressure here, but the Bulldogs could be 10-0 before visiting Pearl River on Jan. 6.