WHITE PLAINS – Tappan Zee, a team marked by resilience and scrappy play during its improbable playoff run to the Westchester County Center, did just that for the first eight minutes of its Class A semifinal bout Wednesday afternoon.
After one quarter, it looked as though top-ranked Albertus Magnus could very well be the next domino to fall in No. 13 Tappan Zee’s Cinderella story. That was before the Falcons took control and went on to win, 60-46.
The Dutchies had buried four 3-pointers and held the Falcons’ high-caliber offense to just 12 points, leading by as much as 10 in the first period.
Trailing 16-12 heading into the second quarter, Albertus Magnus coach Patrick Buckley implemented a stifling full-court press and witnessed a mighty individual effort by freshman Danielle LaRochelle.
Tappan Zee’s run-and-gun offense was immediately thwarted by the press, which led to a number of turnovers and fastbreak points. LaRochelle provided the desperately-needed impetus through a trio of full-court dribble-drive layups off steals and a corner 3-pointer in a six-minute span to counter Tappan Zee’s barrage of downtown scores. She played with unrivaled energy and continuously broke down the Dutchies’ zone en route to a game-high 15 points.
The Falcons (20-0) controlled nearly every facet of the game during the last 24 minutes, and eventually, their depth proved too mighty as they advanced to the Class A championship game against Peekskill Sunday at 5 p.m.. It’s the third straight year Albertus will face the two-time defending sectional champion Red Devils.
“I was a little nervous coming into the game,” LaRochelle said. “But once you start playing, those nerves go away.”
Senior guard Madison McGrath was largely held in check during the first half, but scored eight of her 12 points in the third quarter, when Albertus Magnus held a 19-9 edge. Forward Tess Lorenz added 10 points for the Falcons.
Buckley admitted that, though the team did not play its best, in-game adjustments, efficient shooting and LaRochelle’s big afternoon were good enough to advance and continue their perfect season.
“Danielle is a great player,” Buckley said. “She made good decisions. Big credit to her.”
Tappan Zee was led by senior forward Delaney Sheriden, who finished with 13 points. Senior guard Brianna McCleary, also playing in her final high school game, received a standing ovation from her classmates in the student section, as well as her teammates, as she exited the game with 42 seconds left.
The Dutchies had knocked off both No. 4 Eastchester and No. 5 Harrison to make it to the semifinals.