Not a whole lot has changed in Section 1 girls basketball in recent years. Ossining and Irvington are the top seeds and favorites to win the gold ball in Class AA and Class B, respectively. Defending champs Peekskill (Class A) and Hamilton (Class C) are back, but will have a much tougher time trying to repeat:
2013 champ: Ossining. The defending state champions, the Pride won their third consecutive gold ball and regional championship last year.
Favorite: Ossining. The Pride’s last loss to a Section 1 opponent came on Feb. 4, 2011. Ossining is the top-ranked Class AA team in the state.
Dark horse: Mahopac. The seventh-seeded Indians stunned No. 2 Lourdes on the road in Thursday’s quarterfinals.
Game to watch: Clarkstown South vs. Mahopac. The undefeated Vikings take on the Indians in a matchup featuring two of the top forwards in the section — Laura Castaldo and Mairead Hynes.
Championship pick: Ossining over Clarkstown South. The Vikings will have a difficult time with the Pride’s height and speed.
MVP pick: Jalay Knowles, Ossining
No. 1 Ossining (18-2)
Coach: Dan Ricci
Key players: Jalay Knowles (6-0), Jr., F; Shadeen Samuels (6-0), So., G; Abby Squirrell (6-2), Jr., F.
X-factor: Many of these players already have a state title and numerous County Center appearances under their belts. That experience will serve them well.
No. 3 Clarkstown South (20-0)
Coach: Brian Metcalf
Key players: Laura Castaldo, Sr., F; Jenna Feinberg, So., G; Kayla Tucek, Jr., G.
X-factor: Teamwork. Castaldo is arguably the best player in the section, but her teammates will have to help her on the offensive end if they want the gold ball.
No. 4 Horace Greeley (16-4)
Coach: John Alkalay
Key players: Lauren Brown (5-11), So., F; Sam Srinivasan (5-9), Sr., F; Meaghan Townsend (6-0), Fr.
X-factor: Composure. The Quakers led Ossining through three quarters in their first meeting, then got blown out in the rematch. If Greeley can keep its nerves steady, it may pull off the upset.
No. 7 Mahopac (15-5)
Coach: Chuck Scozzafava
Key players: Mairead Hynes (6-0), Sr., F; Alayne Felix (6-0), Jr., F; Carly Pease (5-6), So., G.
X-factor: Upset specialists. The Indians handed Beacon its first loss of the season, then stunned Lourdes in the quarterfinals. Mahopac has proved it can win big games, even games it wasn’t “supposed” to win.
2013 champ: Peekskill. The defending champs return everyone from last season and have survived two playoff games this season.
Favorite: Peekskill. Even as the No. 4 seed, it’s hard to argue against a team that won it all last year and brought everyone back this year.
Dark horse: Albertus Magnus. After losing senior point guard Kelly Guarino to an ACL tear late in the regular season, the Falcons will have to find a way to compensate.
Game to watch: Beacon vs. Peekskill. Many were projecting this to be the championship matchup. Instead, they meet in the semifinals.
Championship pick: Peekskill over Rye. Assuming they get by top-seeded Beacon, the Red Devils repeat in an aggressive championship battle.
MVP pick: Lanay Rodney, Peekskill
No. 1 Beacon (18-2)
Coach: Christina Dahl
Key players: Brooke Dennin (5-5), Sr., G; Leandra Echi (5-6), So., PG; Talah Hughes (5-11), Sr., F.
X-factor: Managing fouls. The other three semifinalists shoot free throws relatively well. The Bulldogs will need to keep their top players in and opponents off the foul line.
No. 2 Albertus Magnus (16-4)
Coach: Pat Buckley
Key players: Ryan Doherty (5-8), Sr., G; Madison McGrath (5-5), Jr., G; Chontel Fils (5-10), Jr., F.
X-factor: Shooting. The Falcons have the least size, but they have arguably the best shooting team.
No. 3 Rye (16-4)
Coach: Dennis Hurlie
Key players: Maddie Eck (5-10), So., F; Rachel Egan (5-7), Sr., G; Alanna Morque (5-9), Sr., G.
X-factor: Defense. The Garnets boast one of the best defenses in the section and are incredibly deep. Stopping Albertus Magnus’ perimeter shooting will be a focus in the semifinals.
No. 4 Peekskill (16-4)
Coach: Rodney Headley Jr.
Key players: Latisha Clark (5-10), Sr., F; Shaina Iton (6-0), Sr., F; Lanay Rodney (5-9), So., G.
X-factor: Experience. The Red Devils have won and know they can win. Now it’s all a matter of execution.
2013 champ: Irvington. The four-time defending state champs lost two Division I players from last season.
Favorite: Irvington. Until someone topples them, the Bulldogs are the team to beat.
Dark horse: Dobbs Ferry. A sub-.500 team during the regular season, the Eagles are the only Section 1 Class B team to beat Irvington in the past five years.
Game to watch: Irvington vs. Dobbs Ferry. Irvington won the first meeting, but Dobbs Ferry got revenge the second time around. These two also met in last year’s semifinals.
Championship pick: Irvington over Woodlands. Coach Gina Maher and Co. prove they can succeed without Lexi Martins (Lehigh) and Brittni Lai (Marist) and win their fifth straight gold ball.
MVP pick: Laurilyn Gelardi, Irvington
No. 1 Irvington (17-2)
Coach: Gina Maher
Key players: Lauren Chafizadeh, Sr., G; Laurilyn Gelardi, Sr., F; Lindsay Halpin, Fr., G.
X-factor: Confidence. The Martins-Lai tandem stole the show in recent years. This bunch needs to believe it can win it all without them.
No. 3 Briarcliff (12-8)
Coach: Don Hamlin
Key players: Cassidy Carafiello, Jr., G; Jackie Contento, Fr., G; Carly Fanelli, Fr., G.
X-factor: Age is nothing but a number. No seniors? No problem. The Bears will have to match the physicality of Woodlands, but if they can do that, there’s a chance to keep dancing.
No. 4 Dobbs Ferry (10-10)
Coach: Erik Bartell
Key players: Molly Altholz, Jr., F; Emily Bohl, So., F; Alyssa Chipelo, Sr., G.
X-factor: Revenge. Dobbs Ferry is tired of losing to Irvington. Now that it knows it can beat the Bulldogs, the Eagles will likely play with more confidence at the County Center.
No. 7 Woodlands (10-10)
Coach: Ty Postell
Key players: Teisha Hyman, 7th, G; Imani Tilford, Sr., G.
X-factor: Tenacity. The Falcons are the most aggressive team in the Class B bracket, which could serve them well if they are able to draw fouls.
2013 champ: Hamilton. The two-time defending champions graduated most of their team from last season, including Division I talents Maia Hood and Tiffany Corselli.
Favorite: Haldane. Last year’s runner-up returns the deepest team in Class C and is the top-seeded team in this year’s bracket.
Dark horse: Hamilton. Ben Carter has led the Red Raiders to the sectional finals in each of his previous five seasons. Even with an extremely young and inexperienced team, don’t count the Red Raiders out.
Game to watch: Haldane vs. Hamilton. A rematch of last year’s championship, the winner of this game will likely hoist the gold ball.
Championship pick: Haldane over Keio. The Blue Devils have a nine-game winning streak and a huge chip on their shoulders from last year.
MVP pick: Allie Monteleone, Haldane
No. 1 Haldane (12-6)
Coach: Tyrone Searight
Key players: Samantha Lisikatos, Sr., G; Allie Monteleone, Jr., G; Cali Schweikart, Sr., F.
X-factor: Hot hands. The Blue Devils are averaging 14 steals per game as a team and will look to pick the pockets of guards who lose their focus.
No. 2 Tuckahoe (13-5)
Coach: John Kolkowski
Key players: Daniela Cocucci, Sr., G; Brionna Johnson, Sr., F.
X-factor: Pride. The Tigers just missed out on drawing the No. 1 seed. If they think they should’ve been the top seed and play like it, they should be fine.
No. 3 Keio (11-7)
Coach: Justin Loeb
Key players: Masako Iizuka, Sr., C; Marina Kokubo, Sr., G; Sae Toyomura, Sr., F.
X-factor: Scouting. The Unicorns have already beaten Tuckahoe once and Hamilton twice. If Keio gets by the Tigers again, it will have to learn everything it can about Haldane.
No. 5 Hamilton (5-13)
Coach: Ben Carter
Key players: Kadidia Edwards (5-8), Sr., G; Nina Gill (5-11), Fr., C; Neasha Schuler (5-6), So., F.
X-factor: Momentum. While it hasn’t been the greatest season for the two-time defending champs, they enter the tournament having won three of their last four.