By Nancy Haggerty
NEW ROCHELLE — Their coach wanted them to avoid that one, awful quarter that had cost them four games.
And as much as the New Rochelle girls basketball team’s second quarter against North Rockland on Sunday won’t end up in many Huguenots’ scrapbooks, the hosts pretty much did that in surviving to play another day.
Paced by 16 points apiece from Asjha White-Silas (pictured below, 33), Amirror Dixon and Sydney Pinn (below, 5), New Rochelle topped visiting North Rockland 67-58 in an opening-round Section 1 Class AA matchup.
The No. 8-seeded Huguenots, now 15-4, will play top-seeded, 16-2 Ossining on Thursday at Ossining.
No. 9 North Rockland, which finished 11-8, played better than its record.
After falling behind by eight points early, it cut New Rochelle’s lead to 14-13 at the first-quarter buzzer on a 3-pointer by Chloe Mullarkey (11 points).
New Rochelle seemed to fall asleep on defense in the second quarter as the Red Raiders poured in 22 points, with Ciera Rivera (game-high 21 points, pictured right) accounting for eight of them. On several occasions, New Rochelle simply failed to get back as North Rockland hurled long passes down court.
Rivera’s layup gave the Red Raiders a 35-33 lead at the half.
An upset seemed possible when Rivera’s foul shot gave North Rockland a 43-36 lead with 4:56 left in the third quarter. But New Rochelle found another gear.
A long two-pointer from White-Silas and a 3-pointer from Pinn, following a White-Silas steal, cut the Red Raiders’ lead to 43-42 with 3:16 left in the period.
Another Huguenots steal, followed by a Dixon layup and then a White-Silas one-hander in the paint, put New Rochelle up 46-43.
“We seemed to lose our composure. We started committing too many turnovers,” Red Raiders coach Kevin Metcalf said.
The quarter ended with New Rochelle ahead, 49-47. But it was largely all Huguenots from there on out, partly because of the Huguenots’ defense and partly because of the Red Raiders’ foul trouble.
Ultimately, Gabrielle Cajou (six points), Olivia Burden (nine points) and Naya Rivera fouled out.
“We just had to get back and make them earn their baskets,” New Rochelle coach Bruce Daniele said of what changed for his squad.
Game notes: Metcalf was more than happy with Ciera Rivera’s contribution. “She played a heck of a game, offensively and defensively,” he said. Rivera also drew praise from Daniele. Sydney Pinn was assigned to guard Rivera and did a particularly nice job in the second half, limiting her to five third-quarter and four fourth-quarter points. “She’s quick. I didn’t want to press up so much,” Pinn said, noting she attempted to force Rivera to her off hand.
Between its early lead and second-half comeback, New Rochelle sometimes played like it had one second on the shot clock as soon as it inbounded the ball. “Sometimes you want it so bad, you rush,” Daniele said. “They had to settle themselves down.”
Pinn, who was happy her team had a solid third quarter, since, she said, that’s often its “Achilles’heel,” thought North Rockland’s second-quarter run was fueled in part by New Rochelle’s lack of fuel. “Usually that happens with us,” the senior said. “We’ll have a good run and be hyped up, amped. We get a little tired. … They started to run on us. We missed a few fast-break attempts. But then we started to communicate more.” She said the halftime conversation concerned “taking a deep breath.” “In the third quarter, we started playing good defense and our offense started to come to us,” she said.
Metcalf is looking to next season, when his entire team will return. Daniele has to focus on ways to upend heavily-favored Ossining. Daniele said he hadn’t thought about how to do that, then joked of Ossining coach Dan Ricci, “Maybe we’ll just surprise him. … No, nothing surprises him.”