Twice in the third quarter, Briarcliff whittled the Woodlands lead to two before allowing Falcons guard Imani Tilford to steal the ball and coast to easy layups.
The No. 7 Bears were making a habit of inching closer to the No. 10 Falcons’ lead in the opening round of the Section 1 Class B tournament but failing to close the gap.
Until it really counted, that is.
Tied at 48, Briarcliff’s Summer Horowitz fielded a pass just above the free throw line and barreled into two defenders before she launched the game-winning shot with 1.8 seconds left give her squad a 50-48 victory.
“We got it to Summer and that’s our signature move,” sophomore Cassidy Carrafiello said. “She goes right down the middle and she banks it in. Who else would be the person to put that last ball in but Summer? She’s our go-to player.”
Horowitz had 15 points and and Kelsey Simpson had 11 for Briarcliff, which advanced to a quarterfinal at No. 2 Blind Brook Tuesday.
Woodlands never trailed in the contest until it allowed the final basket.
“(Briarcliff) was getting it to the middle too easily,” Tilford said. “We weren’t getting back fast enough to stop their transition.”
With 5:07 left in the fourth quarter, Tilford and Briarcliff’s Grace Orr were tangled on the floor after diving for a loose ball and a double technical was assessed after the pair scuffled following the whistle.
“I told our girls to stay focused and play,” Briarcliff coach Don Hamlin said. “Sometimes I thought we did a good job of that and sometimes I thought we got a little too caught up in (the moment).”
The Falcons displayed both episodes of brilliant play and stretches of poor execution this season, including marquee wins over Ursuline and Ardsley and a 50-point loss to Irvington.
According to Woodlands coach Ty Postell, Tilford has garnered significant Division 1 interest but the team was unable to win consistently behind her 25.9 points per game average in the regular season.
“We’re not going to have the same team coming back next year,” Falcons assistant coach Latoya Milstrey said. “We emphasized to (Tilford) that ‘everyone knows you can score, let’s make everyone else better.’ “
Tilford had 15 points and teammates Shanice Perry and Crystal Hopkins added 11 points apiece.
Blind Brook features a talented frontcourt in Jackie Lavitt and Ally Silfen and the Trojans edged Briarcliff 53-48 in their last meeting on Dec. 13.