BARDONIA — When Lourdes senior Paige Decker heaved up a shot from beyond half court in the final second before halftime at Albertus Magnus High, nobody — Decker included — could have known what was to come.
First, there were four sounds — the buzzer, ringing throughout Tom Collins gymnasium; the ball smacking against the backboard and subsequent “swish” of the nylon; and finally the eruption of the crowd.
Even with the basket, Lourdes still trailed by three.
When Lourdes returned for the second half, everything changed. The Warriors, owners of the best defense in the section last year with 37 points allowed per game, put their lock-down “D” on full display.
Lourdes claimed its second consecutive Richard McNichol Turkey Tip-Off tournament championship at Albertus Magnus’ expense, winning 52-41 after holding the hosts to 14 points in the second half.
Falcons head coach Pat Buckley knew the reason for his team’s second-half woes: ball movement.
“Even (Friday), we were very stagnant on offense — just standing around and watching, which is not what we work on, obviously,” he said. “We have to play better when we need buckets. We didn’t share the ball and we didn’t play the way we wanted to play.”
Albertus Magnus got all of its scoring from three players — Kelly Guarino (17 points), Madison McGrath (14, pictured left) and Ryan Doherty (10), the first two of whom were named to the all-tournament team.
“I feel like we were still talking, our groove just went down,” Guarino said. “We’re going to see (Lourdes) again in December, I think it’s going to be just as good of a game.”
Decker and Emily Ferreri were named to the all-tournament team for Lourdes, with Decker earning MVP honors after a 14-point, eight-rebound performance in the championship. The Southern Connecticut State-bound guard was 9 for 10 from beyond the arc during the tournament, including a 4-for-4 finale.
Best of the rest: Maria Regina junior Bobby Lynn Toscano scored 25 points, including five 3-pointers, and sank a couple of late-game buckets to help the Tigers upset Kennedy, 59-55, in the consolation game of the Richard McNichol Turkey Tip-Off at Albertus Magnus. Gaels senior Kiera Hennessy had 27 points and 22 rebounds to join Toscano on the all-tournament team.
All photos were taken by Journal News visual journalist Carucha L. Meuse.
Zacchio’s game notes: I thought Albertus Magnus was good last year; and even without now-Manhattan freshman and last year’s Journal News Rockland player of the year Maeve Parahus, I think it will be better this year.
The Falcons ran most — almost all — of their offense through Parahus last year. If Magnus plays the way it did in the second quarter — great ball movement — it will be very dangerous this year.
Very few, if any teams, can rely solely on one player to do its scoring and be successful at the higher levels. Ossining had Saniya Chong, but she was a top national recruit; Hamilton had Tiffany Corselli and Jasmine Robinson once Maia Hood tore her ACL, but it the Red Raiders played in Class C. Usually, to be successful, you need multiple threats. Albertus Magnus has that this year.
Buckley said after the game that he knows the same three players can’t keep scoring all of the team’s points, so I don’t expect this to be a trend. The Falcons have a couple of really nice players that have seen good minutes so far as freshman, so I only expect them to develop as the season goes on.
I was really interested to watch Guarino, who was coming off essentially back-to-back ACL tears. With the exception of the thick leg brace she was wearing, you really wouldn’t have known about her injuries. Between taking charges, driving the lane, and going for loose balls, Guarino was all over the court on Saturday — literally. The guard landed hard on some of the falls, a couple of which were right on her injured knee.
After the game, Guarino (pictured left) said she was “a little sore,” but that her knee felt “fine” during the game.
”(The knee) feels good, when I was playing it felt fine, and I’ll just go ice it now (with an) ice bath for the pain,” she said. “I just like to be in the games 100 percent. I’m not going to be somebody who’s just on the offensive side, or just on the defensive side; I want to get down to the dirty stuff, too.”
Guarino said that blocking out the injury helps her to not be limited on the court.
“I have to forget about my knee; I have to get over it,” she said. “I just have to keep working hard on it.”
The senior said she is at about 75 percent, strength-wise, and hopes to be at full-strength by early-to-mid-December.
“I definitely have to do more to get in shape,” she said. “I’m not there fully, yet; I definitely have to do more sprints, cardio, sit-ups — everything like that.”
My next order of business is to see Ossining in action. After picking Lourdes as my No. 1 overall team in my preseason rankings (mostly because I want to see how the “new” Ossining looks), it’s only fair that I see the Pride.
Ossining coach Dan Ricci was in attendance for both days at Albertus Magnus this weekend, likely to scout the competition of Kennedy and Lourdes. Ricci lightheartedly busted chops about having the Warriors above his Pride, winners of the last three Section 1 Class AA titles and last year’s state championship, but was very good about it.
I’ve heard from the comments section and Ricci that Ossining apparently mopped Lourdes in a fall league game, even without standout Shadeen Samuels. However, I found out from a Lourdes representative that the Warriors were without most of their starters, including Decker. All that said, it’s tough to gauge what the game meant.
First, I want to see Ossining with its full roster — against anybody. Seeing Lourdes against two good teams will be great to go off when re-evaluating the ranks. I’m going to post my new rankings later today, but Lourdes and Ossining will stay Nos. 1-2, respectively.
As I’ve told many, I expect this to be a very exciting season. Unlike last year, with Ossining, Irvington and Hamilton all being clear runaway favorites to win the section, this year features a level playing field at all levels. Even if reigning champions Ossining (AA) and Peekskill (A) are favorites to win this year, the margin is nothing like what the three aforementioned teams had.