The annual Journal News all-stars were released Sunday, with Pearl River senior forward Emma Daly taking home the top honor as this year’s player of the year. Daly, a St. Anselm commit, is the fourth Pirate in six years to garner the distinction as the county’s top player, joining three-time winner Christa Scognamiglio.
In what was easily the toughest decision during my four-year tenure with the paper, and probably one of the toughest in a decade, Daly takes the honor over Albertus Magnus’ Madison McGrath, who led the Falcons to a 24-1 overall record, with the only loss coming in the state semifinals.
Aside from the fact that there has never really been a need to, I have never divulged my reasoning behind selections. However, due to the tight competition between these two candidates, I figured that this year should warrant it. I decided on Daly literally the day I called her to set up the interview; minutes before, in fact. Daly and McGrath both had tremendous seasons (as did North Rockland’s Ciera Rivera), but I feel that stats are not the only thing that should be counted in a player of the year (or any other all-star) selection.
Yes, Albertus Magnus won the Slam Dunk, Section 1 and state regional titles undefeated; and yes, McGrath played an incredibly large role in all three of those accomplishments. Yes, Pearl River did not make the County Center (in the same class as Albertus Magnus); but you can’t fault Daly for that.
Albertus Magnus was the best team in Rockland, and, in my opinion, the second-best team in the section behind Ossining. The Falcons had a plethora of talent in its starting five and on the bench. Pearl River heavily relied on Daly. Many pointed out that since the Pirates essentially ran their offense around Daly, her stats were inflated; noting that McGrath would’ve scored more if she got as many touches as Daly.
However, Daly was the focus point of every opponent, while McGrath was one of many options that opponents had to deal with. Ultimately, what factored by decision was Daly’s position switch. Not only did she take on a role that was unfamiliar to her, but she succeeded in it and helped her team succeed. Not that McGrath had to make a position change, but if she had to, for whatever reason, play forward, I don’t think she would’ve been nearly as successful.
Some people played the “role reversal” game – what happens if you put McGrath on Pearl River and Daly on Albertus Magnus? Yes, McGrath may score more, but she’d be a bigger target. Yes, Daly may score less, but it would make the Falcons that much more well-rounded. Colleges (Daly going D-II, McGrath going D-III) played no factor whatsoever. I believe this award should go to the best player in the season, period. If a D-III commit has a better season than a D-II or even a D-I commit, I will select her.
This explanation is to provide a reasoning behind my selection of Daly, and not why I selected against McGrath, so please do not misconstrue the intention. Both players are exceptional, and this was an extremely difficult decision. Some suggested doing a “co-player of the year” selections for both, but I feel that it is a cop out. I could’ve gone either way with this selection and I’m sure the field would’ve been just as divided.
For what it’s worth, Daly was also the player of the year, as voted on by the coaches of the county. My written-out first- and second-team all-stars were exactly the same (all five on each team) as what the coaches had when I received their selections. The only thing that was undetermined was my POY, which I left blank between Daly and McGrath. Yes, the coaches’ vote helped my decision, but it was by no means the final word.
Here are my all-star selections:
G — Olivia Burden, North Rockland, Sr.
G — Jillian Lynch, Tappan Zee, Sr.
G — Madison McGrath, Albertus Magnus, Sr.
F — Emma Daly, Pearl River, Sr.
F — Ciera Rivera, North Rockland, Sr.
Coach of the year — Pat Buckley, Albertus Magnus
G — Alexa Amalbert, Nanuet, Jr.
G — Gabby Cajou, North Rockland, Jr.
G — Dani LaRochelle, Albertus Magnus, Fr.
F — Chontel Fils, Albertus Magnus, Sr.
F — Liz Trojan, Suffern, Sr.
Honorable mention: Val Arbuco, Albertus Magnus, Sr.; Alana Prosapio, Nanuet, Jr.; Erin Ryder, Clarkstown North, Sr.; Kayla Tucek, Clarkstown South, Sr.; Brianna Witt, Suffern, Jr.