After a lackluster couple days here at the Slam Dunk for both the boys and the girls, the action really (and the crowds) really picked up today. Both girls games were entertaining and tonight’s Iona Prep-Peekskill boys game has lived up to its billing so far. There are more people in the crowd at the moment than have probably been here all week combined. Tonight’s attendance was 2,750. Not bad.
Let’s take a second to discuss the girls semifinals. Here some notes, quotes and my overall take:
SEMIFINAL 1: Kingston 62, Ursuline 48
If you watched this game, you know Ursuline could’ve been much closer or even tied at halftime. Instead, the Koalas made just 7 of 31 shots in the first half, thus failing to take advantage of foul trouble to Kelly Kell and Charlise Castro, two of Kingston’s four returning starters. So they trailed 28-19 to start the third quarter and it turned out they were never closer.
Kingston looked like a team that reached the last three Class AA final fours during a 23-point period. The Tigers made shots and forced turnovers, troubling Ursuline with a 2-3 trap. The Koalas couldn’t pound the ball inside and settled for jumpers. On a day they shot 28.3 percent for the game, that wasn’t a good formula.
“We let them dictate what we did and we have to change that,” senior Shannon Ray said.
Ray led Ursuline with 15 points and Kelly Tracy added 10. I thought they received good help off the bench from Jenny Bellas, who had five points and three steals, and freshman Alyssa Lawrence, who had four points and six boards. They helped the Koalas outscore Kingston 19-11 in the fourth quarter, even though Syracuse-bound Rachel Coffey and Castro, who combined for 40 points and 24 rebounds, were still on the floor.
All in all, this wasn’t a bad effort for a team in its first loss. Kingston is the No. 1 team in the state and at times played like it.
“I thought we played well,” Beth Wooters told me afterward. “Of course, there’s room for improvement. But that’s a great team. We lost by 14 and they still had their starters on the floor at the end. It’s not like he conceded.”
SEMIFINAL 2: Irvington 59, Greece Athena 55
A funny game to say the least. What would have been a dispiriting loss for Irvington turned out to be an uplifting win. Of course, sometimes this can happen in sports. Here’s how:
Irvington sailed in front, 28-14, behind a balanced and effortless offensive game. The passing was crisp and the 3’s were falling. But just as easily as the Bulldogs pulled ahead 28-14 midway through the second period, their lead slipped. Greece Athena outscored them 35-15 from midway through the second quarter until the end of the third.
A big reason was the absence of Tara Gabelman. She left the floor with a cut on her leg in the second quarter and made a brief cameo after that before being whistled for a third foul. Gabelman hadn’t even played three minutes to start the second half when she picked up No. 4. Without her, Irvington was beat on the boards and in the paint. Two of Greece Athena’s top forwards, Samantha Garbacz and Shannon Kirkpatrick, combined for 26 points and did the bulk of their damage with Gabelman on the bench.
“Whether she scores or not, when she’s on the court our game is more effective,” Gina Maher said.
Not surprisingly, Gabelman returned to start the fourth quarter and Irvington began to recover immediately. The Bulldogs trailed 49-43 at the time and stormed back behind Gabelman and their underclassmen, Marley Giddens and Alexis Martins. Giddens (17 points, eight boards) and Gabelman (13 points, eight boards, eight steals) teamed up on the first 12 points of the quarter to help put Irvington in front 54-53 with 1:01 left. After a basket by Greece Athena, it was Riley Harrington who nailed the biggest shot, a 3 from the left wing. She made two more free throws and Irvington had its victory.
“It makes the win sweeter to come back from being down,” said Harrington, who finished with 11 points, three assists and two steals. “Since we were up so much, we had to win it. Otherwise it would’ve been so terrible.”
Maher barked to Harrington right before the go-ahead 3. She told her to shoot it even though Harrington was well behind the line.
“As I was runing through to make the cut, I heard Ms. Maher say ‘Riley, if you get it, shoot it,’” Harrington said. “I knew I was pretty deep behind the 3, but I knew I had her faith in me. It sounds kind of corny, but it felt good when I put up the shot.”
Irvington will meet Kingston tomorrow at 4 for the championship. I truly believe the Bulldogs have a chance, but they will be the much smaller team. I’m also not sure how they’ll handle Rachel Coffey, but I’m intrigued.
Ursuline will meet Greece Athena at 2 in the consolation. A win would be important for the Koalas going forward.