WHITE PLAINS — It was all too familiar for Albertus Magnus.
The three-point halftime lead, the three-quarter deficit, the false hope of still being in it in the fourth quarter. All of it was too familiar for the Falcons.
Then, in less than a minute, junior Madison McGrath hit back-to-back 3-pointers to give the Falcons new life and the momentum to avenge a season-opening loss to Lourdes.
McGrath’s long-range shooting gave Albertus Magnus the initial push, then Kelly Guarino’s clutch drives and free throws finished off the Warriors, 57-53 in the opening round of the Slam Dunk Tournament at the Westchester County Center.
“We executed awesome and I’m really proud of my team,” said Guarino (pictured below), who added nine rebounds and four assists. “Just the little (things) like, if there were (loose) balls on the floor — there were two girls on the floor. Team effort.”
Trailing 47-41 with four minutes left in regulation, McGrath pulled the Falcons even with 3:23 to go after scoring her final buckets of a 17-point day. Junior Chontel Fils sank a layup while getting fouled, but could not complete the three-point play.
With about a minute left, the back-and-forth mayhem ensued.
Lourdes 3-pointer, Albertus Magnus layup, Lourdes layup, Albertus Magnus layup, then, arguably the biggest play of the game. Guarino stole the inbounds pass with just over 17 seconds left.
The Warriors would foul, but the Falcons would not miss at the line.
The unsigned senior made six of the team’s final eight points en route to a game-high 23-point performance. The Falcons will take on Peekskill in a rematch of last year’s Class A section final during Friday’s championship game at 6 p.m.
Peekskill won the section title last season, 55-48.
All photos were taken by Frank Becerra Jr. of The Journal News. Click here to view Frank’s entire photo gallery. Here’s my video recap of the game, featuring the final minute of action in all of its excitement-filled glory:
Zacchio’s game notes: In one of the weirdest stat sheets I’ve ever seen, Lourdes played better than Albertus Magnus in several aspects of the game, but because it did not get as many opportunities, the Falcons won with power in numbers.
Lourdes had a higher percentage from the 3-point line (60.0-44.4), free-throw line (85.7-75.0) and was about even from the field as a whole (44.0-44.4). Obviously the big difference was that although Magnus shot significantly worse than the Warriors, it still made more than twice as many shots.
The most interesting stat of the night, in my books was Lourdes’ turnovers. Every other team in the tournament averaged more than 21 turnovers per game; Lourdes had just six. Again, this is me strictly analyzing numbers, but the turnovers did throw me a bit.
Bounding and astounding: Aside from Albertus Magnus’ obvious shooting numbers, the stat I’m sure it is most happy with is in the rebounding category. The Falcons owned the Warriors on the boards, 32-24, a category that a big reason why they lost the section final against Peekskill. With a rematch tomorrow, Magnus will need to be just as prolific in the paint as it was on Thursday if it wants to complete its double dose of revenge.
Told you so: Granted, the rest of my “Players to Watch” from the preview feature weren’t overly-stellar, but then again, it was supposed to be players who usually don’t do all the scoring or get all of the headlines. Albertus Magnus’ Madison McGrath, much like Decker, can shoot the lights out of a place. The junior dropped 17 huge points against a tough Lourdes team that had the best defense in the section last year and returned most of its team this year. I was singing McGrath’s praises a bit last year, but with this being arguably her biggest game to date, I’m telling you now: Watch. This. Girl.
Stacked Deck: Between my time in high school, college, and working for LoHud, I’ve seen a lot of basketball players — mainly female players. For however little my opinion matters, Lourdes guard Paige Decker is the best shooter I’ve ever seen in person. (Aside from UConn’s Kaleeah Mosqueda-Lewis, of course, but c’mon.) Watching her in warmups before the first Magnus-Lourdes rendezvous, I knew she was something special (see below).
Lourdes PG Paige Decker (SCSU commit) just hit seven straight 3-pointers in warmups. Safe to say she’s good to go.
— Mike Zacchio (@Zacchio_LoHud) November 30, 2013
By my stat book, Lourdes’ Paige Decker was 9-for-10 from beyond the arc at the tournament. Surprisingly, the halfcourt shot wasn’t the miss.
— Mike Zacchio (@Zacchio_LoHud) November 30, 2013
Decker was at it again on Thursday, going 6-for-6 from the field, with her only miss of the game coming from the free-throw line. I’ve also now seen her hit both a half-court shot (Nov. 30) and 3-pointer on Thursday that was almost at the half-court logo and touched nothing but nylon.
She’s the type of shooter that when she releases, you don’t think it’s going in — you just assume it’s going in.
Best of the rest from Thursday: Jessica Tucci scored a career-high 22 points for Sleepy Hollow in a 53-30 win over White Plains in the showcase game of the Slam Dunk Tournament. Tucci was named MVP of the game. … Lanay Rodney scored 28 points for Peekskill in a 62-61 win over New Rochelle in a semifinal game of the Slam Dunk Tournament.
Tucci scored all 22 of her points in just three quarters, with Sleepy Hollow coach Nick Romeo pulling her for the fourth quarter. The sharp-shooter’s six 3-pointers were more than White Plains, Peekskill, New Rochelle and Lourdes had as a team.
“Today has just been a good day, all around. I started shooting around in warm ups, and I was feeling it, so I figured, ‘Why not? Just go out and see what happens,’” Tucci said after the game.