No. 18 New Rochelle vs No. 3 Ossining: According to former girls basketball coordinator Bill Glassman, no outbracket team has ever made the County Center before. New Rochelle has certainly overcome a lot to make it onto the biggest of stages. Girls basketball is not a sport prone to upsets. Now the Huguenots are facing their most daunting task. Ossining has a hungry cast and the unbelievable Saniya Chong. New Ro coach Bruce Daniele still hasn’t decided who’s going to play Chong. Normally it’s Briana Rhett that defends point guards, but she gives up 4-5 inches. Mostly he’s concerned with evading the Ossining press and putting up enough points to balance out Chong. Iyana Abrams and Misha Green will do their parts, but it’s wild cards like Mary Miceli (19 points vs Arlington) that may allow New Ro to stay in the game.
No. 8 Mount Vernon vs No. 5 Ursuline: In eight years coaching, Patrice Wallace-Moore has had Mount Vernon in the semifinals seven times. Four straight years she’s been in the title game. Those are long odds to bet against. The Knights are rolling at the right time and look poised to fulfill the promise of preseason expectations. Carece Moore, Sade King, and Lubirdia Gordon are old salts at this point. They know what they have to do here. If they and the newcomers play to their potential, they have a higher ceiling than anybody in this tournament. Ursuline isn’t scared, though. The Koalas held their own in two regular season meetings despite giving up a lot of height on the front line. I feel like Nicole Robinson needs to win the backcourt battle with King for them to win the rubber game.
Prediction: Mount Vernon
No. 3 Albertus Magnus vs No. 2 Pearl River: We saw this game coming from 40 miles away. When these teams started knocking off everybody in Rockland, it became clear that they would finish just behind Peekskill in the seeding and have to face each other in the semis. In many ways they are clones. They have good shooters from outside, they don’t beat themselves, and they get after you on defense. Christa Scogamiglio hasn’t scored fewer than 17 points since Jan. 10. The Pirates don’t absolutely need other double-digit scorers to win, but getting 13-plus out of Nicole Grossbard or Allison Cook wouldn’t hurt. While they shoot from the outside or cut to the hole, Albertus should get some easy shots at the rim. Meghan Richards is perhaps the strongest player on the court and Maeve Parahus can reach over any Pirate.
This is a very tough game to call. I’ll give the edge to PR based on coaching experience. Pat Buckley hasn’t coached a County Center game with 500 eyes on him yet. Lorraine Moylan has. Prediction: Pearl River
No. 4 Rye vs No. 1 Peekskill: If I was Mary Henwood, I would fill the Rye Gatorade bottles with espresso. Because the way Rye can win this game is by coming out blazing in the first quarter. The last really tough opponent Peekskill played, unless you count Somers in the quarterfinals, was Carmel on Jan. 8. That was nearly two months ago. The Red Devils have to have forgotten a few things. Lillian McCabe and Catharine Greer better drain some shots before they remember. Although Peekskill has no one huge player, their front line of Jazmin Garcia, Tasia Nolan, and Sheridan Taylor is large as a whole and plays even larger. Rye would like to use its length to snatch the ball away before it reaches the painted area. It’s the job of Asia Jackson and Kiana Letsinger to make sure that doesn’t happen.
No. 4 Woodlands at No. 1 Irvington: I thought Irvington’s biggest advantage would be that its girls have played on the big stage so many times that nerves wouldn’t be a factor. Not so, said coach Gina Maher. “They’re teenagers,” she said. “This time of year they’re very, very excited.” Still, I can’t imagine they’ll be more wide-eyed than Woodlands. The Falcons practiced in Monroe College’s gym to get used to a big court, but nothing duplicates the County Center. Their best strategy is to put their heads down and run run run. Few teams send its players in motion like Woodlands. Imani Tilford is a ball hawk on defense while Shanice Perry and Nicole Brooks benefit from her passing on offense. But if any team is ready for their pace it is Irvington, which already beat them twice, including once without Brittni Lai. Fully healthy now, the Bulldogs are convinced that they can beat anybody by playing their game. That means lots of spin moves in the post by Lexi Martins and Marley Giddins.
No. 3 Bronxville vs No. 2 Briarcliff: Like Woodlands, Briarcliff moved its practice to a college gym, in this case Manhattan, to simulate the County Center. Not that its girls don’t know every nook and cranny of the place by now. Like Irvington, the Bears have been here before. And the year before that. And the year before that. Polar opposite of Bronxville, really. The only time any Bronco ever went to a semifinal was if they bought a ticket. This is a first for the program. Coach Don Lucas turned them around by putting all the stress on a zone defense that has been stellar. Maureen O’Reilly, Grace Devlin, and the rest are constantly moving on defense. They cover ground quickly, allowing them to double the ball and get back to shooters. Briarcliff will counter by fast breaking whenever possible. The faster Savina and Brianna Reid get the ball upcourt, the less time the defense has to get set. Conversely, Bronxville likes things as slooooooow as possible. The offensive rebounding prowess of Kirsten Noonan and Jensen makes up for a shaky halfcourt offense, so Briarcliff’s Kasey Heyda and Lianna Cornacchio have to put bodies on them. This game is a rematch of the girls soccer championship game, which Bronxville won in stunning fashion over a the three-time defending state champion. You think the soccer players on both teams remember that game? Yeah, I think so.
No. 3 Keio vs No. 2 Hamilton: What the? A Class C playoff game? Where did that come from? Section 1’s forgotten sister finally gets back in action on Tuesday afternoon with a lone semifinal. The winner meets Haldane in the championship. Keio and Hamilton played back-to-back games on Jan. 31 and Feb. 3. Keio hung tough the first time, trailing by three points after three quarters. The next time didn’t go so well, as Hamilton got up 24-0 in the first quarter. “What we were doing the first two times wasn’t working, so we’re doing things completely different,” Keio coach Justin Loeb said. Change should start with Maia Hood. The Hamilton sophomore went off for 66 points in the two games. Keio must cut down her open looks from 3-point land. Junior guard Amani Lightbourne can fill it up too. Of all people to lean on, Keio will look to a freshman, swingman Sae Toyomura. She averages 10 points and 10 rebounds as an inside-outside threat. Rei Adachi will have to get hot from the outside as well.