How about that subject line? I bet you never thought six of the eight girls quarterfinals would be held the same day — or, for that matter, not until Saturday?
The girls finally get their day at the County Center. In this case, they get their morning, their afternoon and their night. And it should be worth the wait. You can certainly make a case for all 12 teams to advance.
For now, here’s my breakdown of today’s games, with a reprint of my Class C capsules from earlier this week:
CLASS A —
No. 2 Lakeland vs. No. 6 Albertus Magnus, 10 a.m.
Head2head: The teams did not meet during the regular season. (They played last year in the Class A final, which was won by Albertus Magnus.)
How they got here: Lakeland defeated No. 15 Beacon 57-46 in the opening round and No. 10 Hen Hud 53-47 in the quarterfinals. Albertus Magnus beat No. 11 Rye 56-37 in the opening round and No. 3 Byram Hills 49-36 on the road in the quarterfinals.
Breakdown: As it says above, this is a rematch of last year’s great Class A final, one of the best games of the season. Lakeland pulled ahead 15-1 and led until Maura Power hit a 3-pointer with a minute to play. Of course, the Falcons won and went on to reach the state final, and Lakeland, with four of five starters back, has had to wait since for its shot a redemption. This is not the same Albertus Magnus team obviously. Four of the top six players from last year’s team are either graduated or injured, including two-time Rockland player of the year Alaina Walker. Walker was such a big reason why the Falcons rallied to win. She drove to the hoop repeatedly and either scored from in close or hit free throws. But an undeniable key to their victory was the way they pressured the ball. Hen Hud had success against Lakeland in the quarterfinals by forcing turnovers and this Albertus Magnus team has the guards to achieve it, too, in Felicia DaCruz, Katelyn Spicer and Kassi Kayser. But they will struggle to stop Tori Jarosz inside and Kristin Pappalardo, a tall, physical guard. Albertus’ three guards will need to force some turnovers, but they’ll also need to sink some 3-pointers in order to win.
Prediction: Lakeland 50, Albertus Magnus 46. The Falcons will have their moments, especially if they can hit 3’s. But they were unable to stop Jarosz last year, and she should be healthy after nine days of rest. If Lakeland can get it in the frontcourt and dump it inside, it should advance.
No. 1 Pearl River vs. No. 4 Peekskill, 11:45 a.m.
Head2head: The teams did not meet during the regular season.
How they got here: Pearl River defeated No. 16 Eastchester 55-22 in the opening round and No. 9 Nyack 64-46 in the quarterfinals. Peekskill beat No. 13 Sleepy Hollow 62-33 in the opening round and No. 5 Brewster 61-42 in the quarterfinals.
Breakdown: First off, expect a very fast game. Peekskill prefers to play at mach speed and this Pearl River team is well-suited to do so as well. Just ask Eastchester, which caught the wrath of the Pirates in the first quarter of these playoffs. The problem for Peekskill is it knows very little about Pearl River, which plays as hard as any team in the section. The Red Devils will be victimized if they fail to drop back on defense, especially after baskets. They will also need to defend the 3 because Christa Scognamiglio and Nicole Grossbard can hit them. Pearl River will need to prevent easy baskets in the open court and keep Jazmine Garcia, Tasia Nolan and Sheridan Taylor from beating them in the pain and on the boards.
Prediction: Pearl River 66, Peekskill 58. For once, it’s Peekskill that has the more experienced team, but not this deep into the playoffs, and not in this setting. The Red Devils have never played at the County Center before, and have never experienced the stress of facing any of the Energizer Bunny teams from Rockland. If Peekskill can handle it and win, I may flip my gold ball pick by Wednesday.
CLASS AA —
No. 2 Carmel vs. No. 3 Mount Vernon, 1:30 p.m.
Head2head: Mount Vernon beat Carmel at home 61-41 on Dec. 10. Taylor Palmer scored 17 points to lead four players in double figures.
How they got here: Carmel defeated No. 15 Ketcham 69-41 in the opening round and No. 7 Our Lady of Lourdes 55-50 in the quarterfinals. Mount Vernon beat No. 14 Arlington 80-57 in the opening round and No. 6 New Rochelle 68-49 in the quarterfinals.
Breakdown: It has been a long time since these teams met and Carmel was not ready to play at Mount Vernon’s level. But are the Rams ready now? We know Mount Vernon has the most talented team, but the Knights are beatable on any given day. Is Carmel capable? Not if it doesn’t receive a monster game from star Brittany Horne, but she’ll need help inside from Nikki Oliver against Mount Vernon’s front line, the tallest and one of the most tenacious in the section. The Rams also must slow down Taylor Palmer and Sade King on the perimeter.
Prediction: Mount Vernon 67, Carmel 54. The defending Class AA champ appears to have regained its form, and its “form” is probably the best in the section. Even if Carmel can stop one area, it will be difficult to prevent Mount Vernon from doing everything it can do.
No. 1 Ossining vs. No. 5 Ursuline, 4:15 p.m.
Head2head: The teams did not meet this season.
How they got here: Ossining defeated No. 15 Mamaroneck 77-47 in the opening round and No. 9 Scarsdale 62-46 in the quarterfinals. Ursuline defeated No. 12 Clarkstown North 69-52 in the opening round and No. 4 Horace Greeley on the road 56-47 in the quarterfinals.
Breakdown: This will be like watching two people drive in the car, one wanting the radio full blast, the other wanting it humming at a reasonable level. Ossining will try to crank the pace, and it is Ursuline’s task to control it. But during their late-season surge, the Koalas showed an ability to do a little of both, so they will take advantage if it can beat Ossining’s pressure over the top. It’ll also be interesting to see if Ursuline can stop Saniya Chong off the dribble. Fullcourt or halfcourt, she makes this offense go.
Prediction: Ossining 61, Ursuline 50. Ossining may struggle at first, but if it imposes its style of game, it should be able to stave off one of the section’s hottest teams.
CLASS C —
No. 2 North Salem vs. No. 3 Blind Brook, 6 p.m.
Head2head: The teams did not meet during the regular season.
How they got here: North Salem earned a bye into the semifinals. Blind Brook defeated No. 6 Keio 54-14 in the quarterfinals.
Breakdown: Here are two teams with different foundations. North Salem’s is quite the pillar: 6-foot-7 senior Danielle Fiacco, one of the section’s top rebounders and shot blockers. She is flanked by an improving group that includes sophomores Jamie Rose Zappolo and Nicole Capra. Blind Brook has several freshmen and sophomores, several of which are capable of filling the box score on any given night. For example, while Fiacco must stay on the floor for North Salem to succeed, the Trojans don’t thrive or fall because of any one player. Freshmen Allison Silfen and Lea Saliba and senior Samara Meyers are all among the difference-makers. Blind Brook also has Manny Martinez, who likes to shuffle strategies and has upset higher seeds at the County Center before.
Prediction: North Salem 44, Blind Brook 38. The Trojans are young and may begin the offseason as a favorite for next year’s championship. That said, not only will they struggle to contain Fiacco if she remains on the floor, they could be challenged adjusting to the environment. A good chunk of the Tigers should remember their experience here last year.
No. 1 Valhalla vs. No. 4 Haldane, 7:45 p.m.
Head2head: Valhalla defeated Haldane 52-42 on Jan. 13th.
How they got here: Valhalla had a bye into the semifinals. Haldane beat No. 5 Hamilton 59-36 in the quarterfinals.
Breakdown: The setup seems so similar to last year, when Valhalla beat Haldane during the regular season and lost to the Blue Devils in the semis at the County Center. But that Haldane team improved late in the season; this one dropped four in a row and six of its last eight to end the regular season. Liz Milner, Victoria and Kristen DesMarais remain key cogs, but the Blue Devils will need contributions from other parts of their roster to earn a chance at a third straight gold ball (and 17th in the last 18 years). Tamara Tribble will be a key in the paint for Valhalla, a team that has been so close recently and will arrive today eager to pull one more step toward the elusive gold.
Prediction: Valhalla 48, Haldane 44. I’m not sure that I’ve ever predicted Haldane to lose a County Center game, but something tells me this is the one. The Blue Devils provided reason for hope with their win over Hamilton, but they’ve struggled throughout the season. Tribble could prove a difference-maker in the paint, where Haldane misses Avery Zuvic.