But Thursday’s Class AA quarterfinal girls basketball game between host Horace Greeley and Ursuline sometimes seemed like a back-and-forth battle between top seeds.
Ultimately, the host Quakers, behind a smothering fourth-quarter defense and some costly Ursuline turnovers, prevailed 60-51.
Greeley will now play No. 1 seeded Ossining next Thursday in the sectional quarterfinals at the County Center.
It will mark the Quakers’ first trip to the semis in a decade.
Thursday, Greeley was led by Hamilton College-bound Sam Srinivasan, who had 17 points, and sophomore Lauren Brown (pictured below), who had 16.
Srinivasan, who crashed hard to the floor multiple times, was a force inside, while Brown not only had some pretty pull-up jumpers and end-to-end baskets but three blocks — two coming late in the fourth quarter, helping Greeley take control.
Anna Savino led Ursuline with 18 points, all coming in the first three quarters.
“We just kind of lost it in the end. We weren’t playing our normal game. We just looked tired,” Savino said.
Ursuline fell behind by as many as 10 points in the first quarter.
But after Brown grabbed an offensive rebound and scored, Rianna Peduzzi’s (six points) long two-pointer and Korina Guerra’s (eight points) foul shot knotted the game at 34 at the half.
A see-saw third quarter saw Srinivasan hit two foul shots after the buzzer to give Greeley a 45-43 advantage entering the fourth.
Greeley threatened to pull away early and had an eight-point lead with four minutes left but a steal by Ursuline and a bucket by junior Lindsay Bettke (13 points) pulled Ursuline to within two at 53-51 with 2:02 left.
But a Tori Ganzi (eight points) 3-pointer, sandwiched between two Brown blocks gave Greeley all the breathing room it needed.
“We were playing not to lose, rather than to win,” lamented Ursuline coach Beth Wooters, whose squad finishes 13-7.
Greeley coach John Alkalay, though, credited his defense.
“Shutting a good team down at crunch time is huge. They all stepped up,” he said.
Notes: Brown credits Srinivasan and Ganzi with much of now-16-4 Greeley’s success this year. The two are captains, who continue to preach the, “We can do it. We can win.” message. Srinivasan, Brown said, says before each game, “The game is yours. The game is ours.” Brown also noted that assistant coach Dillon “Jake” Clark tells her, “Prove your greatness.” Thursday it seemed clear Brown had been listening, especially on her second last-minute block in which she came soaring high, seemingly from out of nowhere to record the rejection. Brown was all smiles after that. In fact, she was all smiles throughout a good chunk of the fourth quarter. “I like to keep it fun,” she explained. “Too much pressure and it gets scary.” She added, “Everyone says I smile too much” but remarked she’s gonig to keep smiling. “Lose or win, it doesn’t matter,” Brown said. … Alkalay, who has been the Quakers’ coach for five seasons, said this was his team’s best defensive effort of the year. Of Brown, he said, “She’s grown so much this year. She’s playing under control.” He characterized her play in transition vs. Ursuline as “tremendous,” whether she was scoring on passing. But he seemed most impressed with her defensive effort and said defense is where he expects Brown to take her next big step. … The Quakers got solid games out of two starting freshmen, Meaghan Townsend, who had seven points, and Ashley Rosenberg, who had eight. “I think they are too young to ever feel pressure. They were too excited and in the moment to realize what was at stake, which is good,” Alkalay said. … Wooters said the Quakers’ height hurt her squad but also added they took advantage of Ursuline’s mistakes. … Alkalay’s assessment of the contest: “It was two evenly matched teams that played their hearts out.” … Greeley knows it will have to muster that much effort, if not more, to top Ossining, which has beaten it twice this year. “They have great players but so do we. It should be a good game,” Brown predicted. “We’re the underdogs that could — so far…” Alkalay joked.
Written by: Nancy Haggerty
All photos from this game were taken by Frank Becerra Jr. of The Journal News