WHITE PLAINS — After playing a secondary role for three quarters, Imani Tilford simply took over down the stretch.
That’s what stars are supposed to do on this stage.
The ball was in Tilford’s capable hands in the most critical moments of a back-and-forth game with Briarcliff on Tuesday at the County Center, and the Georgia Tech signee propelled seventh-seeded Woodlands to a 67-58 win over the No. 3 Bears in a Class B semifinal.
Tilford scored 10 in a row in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter to help get Woodlands to Saturday’s noon final against No. 4 Dobbs Ferry, which beat No. 1 Irvington 55-52 in overtime later Tuesday night.
She used the entire arsenal. Tilford was pulling up and connecting on both sides of the arc. She was also pushing the pace and getting to the line.
A deep 3 with 5:06 left in the game gave the Falcons a 53-43 lead.
“I definitely knew I had to turn it on, especially since I didn’t have a good first half,” Tilford said. “I wanted to keep going and not let my team down. I didn’t want this to be our last game.”
She picked up a technical for protesting a non-call in the third quarter and played the final 12 minutes with four personals.
“At certain times in the game, I’ll tell her to eat,” Falcons coach Ty Postell said. “That means attack. Once she gets into attack mode, I feel for the opponent.”
Hyman was knocking down 3s from the start and got the Falcons on top in a hurry, but there was no panic at the other end. Jackie Contento and Sabrina Panarese answered from behind the arc to quickly close the gap.
It was hard to find breathing room the rest of the way.
“We came into the season with five freshmen, and I told them they grew up in front of my eyes,” Briarcliff coach Don Hamlin said (pictured below, with Contento).
The second quarter was a scrum, but Carly Fanelli, a freshman, sliced into the Woodlands defense and got the Bears in front 27-26. Hyman went deep one more time with 1.4 seconds to go in the half, sending the Falcons into the locker room with a 31-29 edge.
“It’s hard to put it in words when you have someone that young being able to do what she can do,” Postell said. “She’s got a long way to go, but one thing I can say, and you can quote me on this, she is going to be an all-American. Guaranteed.”
Written by: Mike Dougherty/The Journal News
Photo credit: Peter Carr/The Journal News. Click here to view the entire photo gallery.
Video recap credit: Peter Carr/The Journal News
Hyman video credit: Mike Zacchio/The Journal News