The scene in the classroom-turned-locker room Saturday easily could have represented an ending.
“Group hug,” Haldane coach Tyrone Searight yelled. Then, to his embraced players he said, “I love you — every single one of you.”
But this was no ending but, rather, part of a celebration.
The Haldane girls basketball team, trailing by two points at the half, gained some breathing room in the third quarter before rolling to a 46-38 Class C regional final win over Friends Academy at New Rochelle High School.
The victory sends the Blue Devils (16-6) to Saturday’s 12:30 p.m. state semifinal in Troy against the winner of the Keshequa-vs.-Chautauqua Lake matchup.
“They were definitely a challenge — the best team we’ve seen all year,” said Haldane junior Allie Monteleone, who hit for 14 points, 10 in the second half.
Against Friends, a private Quaker school on Long Island, Monteleone said Haldane’s halftime message was to “calm down.”
“Everyone was shaken up (in the first half). This is the farthest we’ve gotten in a few years,” Monteleone said.
Some baskets were bigger than others. Searight and senior guard Sam Lisikatos pointed to Jess Harrison’s 3-pointer with 2:49 left in the third quarter as being big. The shot put Haldane up, 31-26.
“That set the trend of us running away,” Searight said of Harrison’s shot.
It was Haldane’s second 3-pointer of the half. The first, from Marissa Lisikatos, gave the Blue Devils a 22-21 lead to start the third quarter.
Harrison and Marissa Lisikatos finished with seven points each. Sam Lisikatos and Cali Schweikhart scored 10 apiece.
Haldane had trouble early in the game with Friends forwards Rose Mangiarotti and Lindsay O’Sullivan, who got inside time and again.
But in the second half, the Blue Devils totally shut down Mangiarotti, who finished with eight points. They also limited O’Sullivan to seven points in the third quarter and none in the fourth after she’d hit for 10 in the first half.
Still, Friends managed to pull to within four points with 5:38 left in the game on Kristin Kim’s 3-pointer. But Harrison buried a long two before Monteleone stole the ball and scored on a layup to expand Haldane’s lead to 40-32 with 4:08 left.
Two buckets by Schweikhart — the latter coming with 2:12 left off a great feed from Sam Lisikatos — gave Haldane a 44-32 lead and basically sealed things.
Monteleone didn’t have her typical high-scoring game, but that was OK with Searight.
“Someone always seems to come through in crucial situations,” he said.