Wow. What an incredible game tonight at Nanuet. There’s just no other way to term it.
Briarcliff won 74-64, but at no point I remember in the last five seasons has a score said so little about the game in question. It indicates the favorite won by a solid 10 points. What it fails to reveal, however, is this: 1) how Nanuet completely dominated the game for 22 minutes, and 2) that Briarcliff proved just how much a team learns by winning a state championship.
The evening was best summed up in this quick exchange with Maggie Blair. I said, “Well, that was fun, huh?” She said quickly: “No. Well, the end was, but not the beginning.”
Of course, Nanuet made it so, running past, around and through the defending Class B state champs. The scorching-hot Golden Knights looked like the faster, fitter and sharper team, torching Briarcliff for 43 first-half points en route to a 43-29 lead.
Lauren Kahn — her aggressiveness, athleticism and playmaking — were a major factor, but so was Christine Brezovsky, who converted the open looks. She scored 16 points for the game, and had 13 of them in the first half. Don Hamlin later told me that “we weren’t paying attention to our assignments,” and I have a feeling Brezovsky was the one he meant in particular.
Nanuet only extended its lead in the third quarter. The Golden Knights went up 48-33 on a 3-pointer by Nikki Saponaro early in the third. They were still up 51-37 after Brezovsky nailed a 3 with 3:40 to play in the quarter. Right then, Briarcliff began to show the mettle of a champion. But the Bears said their push started at halftime.
“Walking out of the gym at the half, we looked at the scoreboard and we knew that wasn’t us,” Brianna Reid said. “We had to step it up.”
They did, Reid in particular. Briarcliff first cut its deficit to 51-45 on Blair’s putback at the buzzer. The Bears then really became dangerous on the opening possessions of fourth. Reid hit back-to-back 3’s, then finally tied the score 53-all off a feed from Blair with 6:24 to play.
The teams traded points, Nanuet refusing to give up in the face of a once unfathomable run. Eventually, however, Briarcliff’s ability and willingness to take and make big shots won out. Reid. Her sister, Savina (both celebrating their 16th birthdays.) Taylor Pescetti. And Blair, of course, who did less of the scoring but seemed to be at either the start or finish of every big play in the fourth quarter. (The Bears also made four 3’s and shot 13 for 17 from the FT line in the fourth.)
Afterward, I asked Hamlin about Reid (Brianna), who has had similar moments of late-game grandeur. Earlier this season she scored all of her points in the fourth quarter to beat Ossining. And just last weekend she hit a basket with two seconds left to tie the game against Kennedy (Bronx).
“She has no conscience,” Hamlin said, “which is a good thing.”
Nanuet was obviously saddened by the loss but it can’t be disappointed with the effort. For almost three quarters, the Golden Knights were the better team.
Carlos Fidalgo said they’d move past the loss beginning with tomorrow morning’s 8 a.m. practice.
“We know that if everything works out for us this year that we’re going to see them again,” Fidalgo said. “That’s not us being cocky. We just know that if we want to win the section we’re going to have to go through them.”