Hey everyone, I’m out sick today so I wasn’t able to provide live updates from the County Center. I know that Briarcliff and Irvington both won big, setting up a great final tomorrow. Could be a Class B finals preview.
Here is Josh’s story from Briarcliff’s win over Kennedy. I’ll post Jared Diamond’s story on Irvington as soon as he turns it in.
WHITE PLAINS — Whether it was a coincidence or not, Briarcliff’s momentum began to slip right around the time coach Don Hamlin was whistled for a technical foul midway through the second quarter. Kennedy whittled the Bears’ lead from 13 points to seven by halftime and Hamlin felt the need to address the issue in the locker room.
“He just told us to forget about it,” sophomore Brianna Celaj said.
But Hamlin shared another message, too.
“I told them it was about time they outworked someone because they were outworking us the whole second quarter,” he said.
Briarcliff listened, and it rolled to a 63-38 victory in the Slam Dunk semifinals at the County Center. Celaj and senior Brianna Reid each scored 16 points and combined to shoot 11 of 19 from the field.
The Bears (6-1) advanced into today’s 2:15 championship game against Irvington in a matchup of Class B’s two presumptive favorites.
Irvington won the state and Federation championships last season. Briarcliff won both in 2008 with Reid, twin Savina, and fellow senior Kasey Heyda playing key minutes along the way.
“It’s definitely something we wanted,” said Celaj, who made 4 of 6 3-pointers. “It will be a good test for us and I think it will benefit us when it comes time for sectionals. We could play them again.”
The Bears’ lead was just 30-23 at halftime despite a first quarter explosion that saw them drop 23 points, thanks, in part, to two 3’s by Celaj. But Kennedy’s teamwork produced its best quarter of the game in the second.
Senior Natalie Canarelli — the only member of the Gaels who played significant minutes on last season’s Class B semifinalist — scored five of her team-high 16 points during the run and Marina Cotarelo hit a basket just before the half.
With its new mindset, Briarcliff applied pressure with an extended 1-3-1 zone to start the second half. Kennedy coach Al Morales warned his players to expect the pressure but the Bears scored the first 10 points of the period as part of a 22-2 run.
“We told them the first four minutes of the half were going to be the most important,” said Morales, whose team, with nine seniors graduated since last season, lost its sixth straight. “But we went backward and I think we lost all of our momentum.”
Heyda chipped in 12 points and five rebounds for Briarcliff. Liana Cornacchio added nine points and eight boards.
Nine different players scored for Kennedy. Canarelli and Kiera Hennessy each had six rebounds.
The Gaels will meet White Plains at 10:45 this morning in the consolation.