(Photo Credit – Frank Becerra Jr./The Journal News)
By Phil Terrigno
ALBANY The celebrations have been plentiful and the sadness has been minimal for Irvington during the past four seasons, a stretch in which the Bulldogs (24-2) won four state titles and posted a 106-6 record.
In their final effort of the season, a 65-48 win over Buffalo’s Cardinal O’Hara (28-2) in the Class B Federation Tournament of Champions final, the Bulldogs celebration took the form of teary embraces.
“It was like the last hug, it was the last hug,” senior Alyssa DiCampli said. “We’ll probably (all) hug in school. Every year we win for the seniors, but now that we are seniors, there are no words to describe it.”
While most high school teams clamor for a collegiate player of any level, coach Gina Maher’s squad enjoyed the success that having two Division 1 talents brings.
Maher will part with Marist-bound Brittni Lai and Lehigh-bound Lexi Martins, as well as DiCampli, Ryan McMahon and reserve Nikki Legha.
“I’m very lucky to have been a part of this,” Maher said. “Not a lot of people have been able to be a part of such a thing.”
Martins posted 22 points and 16 rebounds as Irvington claimed its second consecutive Federation title and third in the past four seasons.
Lai’s 15 points give her 1,889 in five varsity seasons – two of which were spent at Edgemont – and Martins finished with 1,859 points and 1,479 rebounds in four years.
“It’s so sad to think that it’s all over now,” Martins said. “There is no tomorrow, there is no more practice.”
It wasn’t the crispest of starts for Irvington, who allowed Cardinal O’Hara to linger within two points when Martins sat with three fouls midway through the second frame.
Irvington closed the first half on a 6-0 run and led 30-22 at the break, aided by 3-for-8 free throw shooting from the Hawks in the first half.
The Bulldogs took a 43-26 third quarter lead after a 13-4 run was highlighted by four straight baskets from Martins.
“It picked up my confidence and it also picked up the team’s confidence,” Martins said. “A lot of those baskets came from passes from teammates. Brittni got a steal and we really always work off each other.”
Experienced juniors Laurilyn Gelardi and Lauren Chafizadeh will lead a returning group of seven underclassmen next season.
“One of the things I said to the kids on the bench at the end of the game was, ‘Are you guys ready to carry this on?” Maher said. “And they said ‘yes.”