I moved this post up now that’s it’s complete. I would save yourself the trouble and only read halfway down. The rest is just one fountain of misinformation…
NO. 2 MOUNT VERNON (20-3) vs. N0. 4 OSSINING (17-6)
When: Today, 2 p.m.
How they got here: Mount Vernon beat Clarkstown North in the opening round, John Jay-East Fishkill in the quarters and Scarsdale in the semis, outscoring the Raiders 15-2 to end the game in the latter, a 45-33 victory. Ossining advanced on a thriller, 61-59, in the opening round against New Rochelle, then came from way behind to beat Yorktown in the quarters and Lourdes in the semis.
Head to head: The teams have not met since 2005-06. Ossining beat Mount Vernon in the playoffs the three previous seasons: 2003, 2004 and 2005. The last two years MV was the No. 1 seed in the tournament. In 2004, Ossining responded from a 16-point deficit at halftime and won in double OT in perhaps the most best girls game in County Center history.
Key matchup: Imani Floyd and Christina Rupp of Ossining vs. Shanyce Stewart, Lubirdia Gordon and Tatiana Lewin of Mount Vernon. I don’t know how, but Floyd and Rupp must keep MV’s three bigs off the board, particularly Stewart. Ossining appears to be taylormade for the 6-foot-1 junior, whose ferocious rebounding had been the difference against much bigger front lines. In Lewin, the Knights have a potential game changer. She was held scoreless in the semis, yet at times she has been their most unstoppable player. Rupp is undersized and Floyd plays her best when Ossining is rolling. They must bring all the intensity and emotion to compete this afternoon.
Outlook: First off, I expect a high scoring game. Mount Vernon’s talent in the open floor coupled with Ossining’s penchant for gambling leads me to believe there will be some easy baskets. MV’s inexperienced guards will make mistakes. Ossining will miss plays and won’t have time to recover. It’s natural. But what I also believe is that the Knights will dominate the offensive glass. How can they not? Wait until you see the teams stand across from each other for the National Anthem. The size difference will be significant. The question, however, is when MV hits a rough patch, when Ossining has the Knights arguing among themselves and they can’t hear themselves think above the screaming, how will they react? This Mount Vernon team may be young but it is more mature than the teams that have come before it. It’s a tight group of girls who want to play for one another. This may not be the Knights most talented team (2005). It may not be the biggest favorite (2008). But it may be the one best prepared to take home that gold ball. It’s been 26 years, but this may just be Mount Vernon’s time. We will see. PREDICTION: Mount Vernon 72, Ossining 67 (MVP: Stewart)
N0. 1 LAKELAND (17-3) vs. NO. 2 ALBERTUS MAGNUS (21-2)
When: Tonight, 5:15 p.m.
How they got here: Lakeland had a bye in the first round then beat No. 9 Hen Hud in the quarters and No. 5 Pearl River in the semis. Magnus advanced past No. 15 Sleepy Hollow in the first round, No. 10 Beacon in the quarterfinals and No. 3 Brewster in the semis. All five of the playoff games played by these teams were decided by double digits. In fact, they were pretty much over shortly into the second half.
Head to head: The teams have not met this season.
Key matchup: Lakeland’s Emily Alicea and Kristin Pappalardo vs. Magnus’ Alaina Walker and Felicia DaCruz. The Falcons will try to pressure Lakeland, hoping to keep the ball from ever getting to the point where it can be tossed into the paint. With her quickness, strength and long arms, Walker may be the best on-ball perimeter defender around. DaCruz isn’t too shabby herself. Alicea and Pappalardo must get the ball into areas where Lakeland’s offense can begin to attack.
Outlook: What makes this the game I anticipate the most is this…no one really knows what’s going to happen. Really, there’s no way to gauge how the two teams will matchups, and a lot of basketball is matchups. They have no history. Not only that, they have almost no common opponents. Although Lakeland wiped out Pearl River, a team that gave Magnus fits, you still can’t base anything on one game. As good as Pearl River is, it is a far different team than the Falcons anyway. Not nearly as big. Not nearly as deep. Plus, Magnus had a chance to take a real good look at the problems the Hornets present. Lakeland had that opportunity as well and probably left equally impressed by what it saw. Magnus is undoubtedly the best team the Hornets have faced all season. Alaina Walker is the best player they’ve faced, too. Her problem may come on various drives to the basket. How will she finish in and around the twin towers of Tori Jarosz and Kerry Johnson? Likewise, can her hard-changing play get one or both of those two into foul trouble? On the opposite end, can Theresa Miller, one of the only players who doesn’t give up size to Jarosz, not only defend the Lakeland star but stay on the floor for 15-20 minutes? I can’t answer those questions. Neither can you, no matter how hard you may try. The truth remains that either team could win or lose. What I expect to determine the game is: A) Whose complementary players knock down more jumper (Vicky Kowalski, Alicea and Pappalardo for Lakeland and DaCruz, Maura Power and Caitlin Spicer for Magnus), and B) Which team keeps its top players on the floor? Magnus is better built to weather the storm of two quick fouls to Walker, who spent much of the first half of last year’s Class B final on the bench. I also believe the Falcons can force turnovers. As Joe McGuinness said about Walker, “She turns defense into scoring.” I think Walker and DaCruz can do just enough of that to win. PREDICTION: Albertus Magnus 58, Lakeland 53 (MVP: Walker)
NO. 2 HAMILTON (16-4) vs. N0. 4 HALDANE (13-8)
When: Today, 2 p.m.
How they got here: Haldane beat Tuckahoe in the only Class C quarterfinal, then pulled off an upset of top-seeded Valhalla in the semifinals on Tuesday. Earlier in the afternoon, Hamilton handled North Salem in it semi.
Head to head: Hamilton dominated early, going ahead 21-2 through one quarter, and went on for a 56-35 win on Dec. 23. Maia Hood had 16 points and 10 rebounds and Shereen Lightbourne had 15 points, eight rebounds and five assists.
Key matchup: Avery Zuvic and Holly Whiston vs. Hood and Ashanti Kennedy. Hood and Kennedy provide Hamilton with a number of easy shots. When they play well, the Red Raiders are very tough to beat because they often have the best player on the floor in Lightbourne. Zuvic and Whiston are good enough to compete with them. If they can negate Hamilton’s edge on the boards, Haldane can win.
Outlook: This will be a totally different game than last time. Haldane has vastly improved, and Hamilton has to start the game a little concerned about Lightbourne’s ankle, which has bothered her for nearly three weeks. The Red Raiders will need production out of its youngsters until Lightbourne heats up. Haldane played at a different level on Tuesday once it sense Valhalla was vulnerable. It reminded you that tradition and experience are variables in a big game on a big court in front of a big crowd. The Blue Devils were lucky though. They shot the ball well. They played a very balanced game. And they forced turnovers. They will have to do all three against Hamilton, which, in my estimation, enters as the more talented team. The game in December proved as much. PREDICTION: Hamilton 57, Haldane 48 (MVP: Lightbourne)
N0. 2 IRVINGTON (19-3) vs. NO. 5 NANUET (16-6)
When: Tonight, 7:15 p.m.
How they got here: Irvington beat Putnam Valley in the quarterfinals and routed Dobbs Ferry in the semis. Nanuet pulled away big in the second half at Edgemont in the quarterfinals, then upset defending Federation state champ Briarcliff 59-38 in the semis on Tuesday night.
Head to head: Irvington won both, 55-53 on Jan. 8 at home and 68-45 on Feb. 5 at Nanuet. The first meeting went to OT. The second was a stunner, but Nanuet was slumping at the time. This one should be closer.
Key matchup: Lauren Kahn vs. Riley Harrington and Lisa Bucci. When Nanuet’s at its best, Kahn seems to pull all the strings. She faces a great deal of talent against Irvington, which may not even use one of its two guards to check her. That assignment may fall to Marley Giddens. Still, with Tara Gabelman and K.C. Jentzen often canceling one another out, the team with the backcourt that makes more positive plays while avoiding mistakes could win it. Kahn can get a boost if Christine Brezovsky buries a few open shots.
Outlook: I said Tuesday night I was leaning toward Nanuet no matter who it played. I was. Nothing but a brilliant performance could’ve changed my mind, but Irvington opened my eyes with its easy win over Dobbs Wednesday afternoon. The Bulldogs looked like a champ should. All seven players in its rotation made positive contributions, including Lexi Martins and Kelly O’Donnell off the bench. They also moved the ball in breathtaking fashion, drawing raves from even the hardest fans to please. I can’t tell you how many people who I know, people who go solely to watch the boys, stopped me to say, “Boy, those Irvington girls have some team.” Problem is, Nanuet played equally well, completely controlling the game against Briarcliff, which looked more like the underdog than the favorite. That’s hard to do. Obviously, stars Kahn and Jentzen are terrific, but Brezovsky and Nikki Saponaro and Ryan Mulligan ran well, finished breaks and made open shots. Still, the history is what it is. Irvington swept Nanuet. It appears to have the more balanced team. It has greater size. And it has a little more experience. PREDICTION: Irvington 66, Nanuet 60 (MVP: Gabelman)