Irvington was in unfamiliar territory.
With the exception of a couple of games this year, Irvington had grown accustomed to blowing its opponents out by the time the first half comes to a close. But in the Class B state Federation semifinals against Cardinal O’Hara, the Bulldogs found themselves clinging to just a 4-point lead (30-26) at the half.
Missed shots and missed opportunities put Irvington in that situation, as the Bulldogs shot 36.4 percent from the field in the first half.
“There were some miscues, but I also think we did miss a lot of shots at the beginning of the game,” Irvington coach Gina Maher said. “At one point, I turned to Donna (Devaney) and said we should be up by 20 now. We had missed five or six layups…At the half, we talked about how the next couple of minutes going into the third quarter were going to be key.”
Cue Lexi Martins.
Once Martins got in a groove on Friday, there was no stopping her. After being held down to only four points in the first half, she came to life in the second half to lead Irvington to the 74-57 victory.
Martins netted 14 points in the third quarter and at one point opened the scoring in the third with 11-straight points for the Bulldogs. She would finish with a game-high 24 points and 16 rebounds and added four blocks. Staying aggressive, she also did most of her damage from the foul line, hitting 16 of 23 free throws in the game.
Brittni Lai also found her way to the line and made Cardinal O’Hara pay for it. Lai scored 13 of her 21 points from the foul line.
As a team, Irvington played much better in the second half and shot 52.9 percent from the field, while the Hawks went in the opposite direction, going from 32.3 percent in the first half to shooting 25 percent in the second half that ultimately sealed their fate.
Also worth noting is the play from Irvington sophomore Lauren Chafizadeh, especially down the stretch. She contributed six points and was a perfect 4 of 4 from the foul line and even more important, impressed coach Maher.
“Lauren was also huge today,” Maher said. “There’s no way we go onto the next game without her. I thought she was huge and hopefully she will keep it up next year.”