Here’s columnist Rick Carpiniello’s story from last night’s game:
WHITE PLAINS — This was 2010, and Irvington High’s girls basketball team had won its first Section 1 title in 20 years, and now had won a regional game in New Paltz.
Alexis Martins — before she became known as Lexi — had delivered a big performance as the Bulldogs’ freshman sixth-man. I wanted to interview her, and Irvington coach Gina Maher asked me if I wouldn’t mind interviewing some of the seniors instead.
I figured at the time that, well, Maher always wanted the seniors to have the stage. But now, I wonder if part of it was that Maher knew that Martins would have plenty of time under that spotlight?
Because she sure has. So has Maher. So have the Bulldogs, who last night won their fourth consecutive Section 1 B title with a win over Blind Brook.
“I knew she would,” Maher said of Martins, who was named the tournament MVP. “When she was a freshman you could see everything she was going to be. She just has this fire and she hates to lose, and she really knows the game also. To see her growth from then was amazing. I think she’s twice as good this year as she was last year from that standpoint.”
So Martins, Maher and Irvington will take a run at a fourth straight state title, and then perhaps a run at a third Federation championship, all in these four years during which Maher became the section’s all-time winningest basketball coach boys or girls (she has 581 wins now, and 11 sectional titles, having won seven in a row from 1984-90).
What a run this has been for the Bulldogs, who graduated four seniors off of that first team in 2010, then added Brittni Lai as a transfer to Martins and Marley Giddins, another tenacious all-around star who graduated last spring.
Martins is the lynchpin and identity of this four-year roll, and as Giddins was and Lai has become, just a relentless player on a team that plays the game, at the same time, with ferocity and joy. Teammates Ryan McMahon and Alyssa DiCampli have also been a part of all of that, for four years.
“I think it’s a mentality that Ms. Maher sets within us at practice, to play hard all 32 minutes,” Martins said. “It’s actually 1,920 seconds. She’s told us that. I think it’s an attitude she sets in the beginning.”
Of course, this title game wasn’t easy. For one thing, Blind Brook coach Manny Martinez’s teams will A) defend and B) match an opponent’s intensity. For another, the Section 1 Class B title game, for five years (maybe going on six), has determined the state champ, Nanuet (’09) and Briarcliff (’08) coming out of County Center to win it all.
It was a matter of time before Irvington took over, with a bunch of Lai steals and fast break layups … actually, since Lai arrived, often it looks as if Irvington’s best offense is a Lai steal and layup.
In these four seasons, Irvington has six losses – three to Ossining, which today goes for its third straight AA title, one to Long Island Lutheran in the Federation championship, one to Kingston, which was coming off a state AA championship game the season before, and one to Peekskill, which would go on to win the state Class A championship that year. Remarkable stuff.
“It doesn’t get old,” Maher said. “It really, really, really doesn’t get old. It’s been an amazing four years, an unbelievable four years. I’m really lucky.”