SUFFERN — Every year on New Year’s Eve, millions of people think that with the drop of a ball, all of the bad memories of the previous year will be forgotten and their luck will change for the better in the next.
Add the 13 members of Suffern’s girls basketball team to that mix. Although, the ball they watched drop isn’t nearly a big or bright as the one many watch fall in Times Square.
This ball is 28.5 inches in circumference, and weighs about 20 ounces; just slightly more manageable than the 12-foot, 11,000-pound monstrosity in New York City. When it trickled through the nylon nets at Suffern High on Tuesday, the team felt uplifted.
Trailing Tappan Zee by one point with 16.7 seconds left in regulation, Suffern’s Beth McDonough found sophomore Liz Trojan for a wide-open layup. The Dutchies inbounded and got the ball over to their end of the court and called a timeout.
After two reach-in fouls against Suffern whittled away some time off the clock, the Dutchies again inbounded; this time with 5.9 seconds left.
Again, it was Trojan making the big play.
A blocked shot with fractions of a second left gave Suffern a 41-40 win over a tough Tappan Zee team. More important that who the opponent was, or the dramatics of how the game was won was the common denominator: a win.
The 6-foot-1 forward was the star of the fourth quarter. Her two free throws with just over two minutes left pulled Suffern to within one before she made the game-winning layup.
Trojan was fouled with 2:45 left in regulation — still down three — when officials signaled that she would shoot a pair of free throws. Before Trojan stepped to the line, the call was changed to foul on the floor, and gave Suffern possession, but no free throws.
“It was a little frustrating,” first-year coach Rich Burger said. “I think that whenever you have a heavy forward team like we do, you’re always looking for every call inside to get the girls to the line.
“One thing about Elizabeth is that she’s really improved her foul shooting. Last year, we worked a lot on it with the junior varsity; she’s around 65-70 percent this year, which is a big, big improvement.”
Trojan worked with Burger’s father and assistant coach, Rich Sr. to improve her stroke at the charity stripe.
When seeing that Suffern is allowing an average of just over 35 points per game, one would expect the Mounties (4-4) to be more than just a .500 team. But with a schedule that has included, among others: New Rochelle, Albertus Magnus, Scarsdale and now Tappan Zee, it makes more sense.
“It’s so nice that the defense finally paid off,” Burger said. “This was a big win for us as a program.”
Amanda Morales’ hard-nose defense was a key factor in the Mounties’ win, as was Deja Smith’s (pictured left) six first-half rebounds. Suffern had contributions from virtually everyone on Tuesday, especially its bench.
After losing most of its games within one basket, Burger said that another nail-biting loss could have sent the team
“I think (with) another (close loss), the confidence starts to drop; and I now I think they’re really motivated,” he said. “It’s nice to end the year with a win, especially after last week — the Nanuet loss, giving up a 16-4 lead, the kids were really down after that game. They’re really up right now; they feel really great and they have some confidence.”
Suffern used its depth to overcome the Tappan Zee tandem of Kristen McLaughlin (17 points, eight rebounds) and Jillian Lynch (15 points, nine rebounds), outscoring the Dutchies 13-0 in bench points.
Sisters Beth and Amy McDonough each added five points off the bench.
Suffern’s luck looks to be turning around, and the clock didn’t even have to strike midnight.
All photos were taken by Seth Harrison of The Journal News. Click here to view Seth’s entire photo gallery. Below are some videos from the day. In order: my video recap, Seth’s video recap, my video interview with Liz Trojan: