By Mike Zacchio
NEWBURGH — Peekskill never gave up.
Not when it trailed by 23 in the third quarter of Tuesday’s Class A state regional semifinal.
Not when it trailed by two with 5.2 seconds left and it was Walkill’s ball.
The Red Devils kept battling right until the final second when Wallkill’s Kelly Markisello hit a running jumper at the buzzer to give the Panthers a 64-62 win in a Class A state regional semifinal at Mount St. Mary’s College.
It’s the kind of attitude coach Rodney Headley Jr. has come to expect from his players.
“I’m just so proud of my team,” Headley said. “We just never quit, and in that huddle, all eyes wanted it.
“Every single person, from the players who weren’t in the rotation — everyone was fixed on, ‘We believe.’”
The Red Devils, who earned their spot in the regionals after capturing the Section 1 championship Sunday, walked out of the locker room with streams of tears running down their faces.
“It was a lucky shot, so I give it to (Markisello),” Peekskill freshman Lisana Burnett said. “We’ve been down, and there’s been times where we’ve been down more (than 23) … we just had to play through it.”
Peeskill’s improbable comeback was mostly due to freshman Lanay Rodney, who scored 20 of her 26 points in the second half, including 12 in the final quarter, and had nine rebounds.
Rodney hit the game-tying 3-pointer with less than a minute left. The Red Devils (14-10) later had a chance to tie the game again with less than 10 seconds left, but missed the opportunity.
“They could’ve stopped, and they didn’t,” Headley said of the final seconds. “They proved to me that they are that ready, and disciplined, and dedicated to what we do.”
Rodney stole the inbounds pass with 5.2 seconds left in regulation and hit a quick layup to tie the game at 62-62.
Wallkill quickly inbounded again and found Markisello, a 6-foot-1 forward, who beat the buzzer to give the Panthers (20-1) the victory. The Panthers were outscored 44-27 in the second half.
With the entire roster returning next season, Headley said the mission for next year is clear.
“State championship or bust,” said Headley, whose Red Devils won a state title in 2011. “When we have our offseason meeting in about a week or so, when everything dies down, I’m going to tell them, ‘You got to go out there and get it, or it’s a bust.’”
While sitting at the scorers table, I managed to catch video of the entire ending described above. I guess for me, lightning really does strike twice.
SEE THE GAME-WINNING SHOT HERE: Wallkill beats Peekskill on a buzzer-beater!
Video by Mike Zacchio/The Journal News
Photo by Frank Bacerra Jr./The Journal News