In the first installment of what I hope to be an annual post, I decided to hand out some special awards from Championship Week. I’ve decided to name them the “Leafy Awards” after longtime County Center public address announcer Rich Leaf, who coined naming the building “Westchester’s Most Famous Arena.”
This was a pretty spur-of-the-moment thing, but, should I decide to do it next year, I’ll try and make up actual awards to be handed out to the coaches for their players (or themselves) after the tournament concludes. Since Championship Week coincides with the Oscars, I thought it would be fun to translate popular film award categories onto the court.
BEST VISUAL EFFECTS: Given to the fan base that displays the most passion, entertainment and sportsmanship throughout the tournament. Nominees: Keio, New Rochelle, Putnam Valley, Ursuline, Valhalla.
And the Leafy goes to… Keio.
The Unicorns have had one of the best (and relatively unknown) student sections around for years, but fans at the Westchester County Center and on Twitter got to see just how entertaining these kids are. From the organized chants, to the two students going back and forth during impromptu dance-offs, the Keio student section was one of the best sights of week.
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: Given to the program that had the best storyline of the tournament. Nominees: John Jay-East Fishkill, Keio, Pearl River, Putnam Valley, Rye.
And the Leafy goes to… Rye.
I told Garnets head coach Dennis Hurlie that Sunday’s win was like the perfect storm of everything coming to fruition, because it was — winning it all after back-to-back semifinal exits, beating a team that beat them earlier in the year, Katie Popp scoring her 1,000th point and taking MVP honors. I don’t have stock in any of the 16 teams that make it to the County Center, but it is fun when I can write about good stories, and Rye’s performance Sunday certainly fit the bill.
BEST LIVE ACTION FILM: Given to the best footage caught on camera during the week. Nominees: Keio-Ossining dance-off, Rye accidentally storms the court.
And the Leafy goes to… Rye.
I don’t know how many people saw this at the game, but after the announcement was made that Popp had scored her 1,000th point, several members of the Rye bench — by my count, at least four — accidentally ran onto the court. The Garnets led 51-33 with about 6:35 left in the game. The players (all of them) could have been issued technical fouls for the incident, and had Ursuline made (at least) eight of its free throws, the game in that situation becomes much closer and likely shifts the momentum over to the Koalas. Personally, I love that you can hear Hurlie yelling, “Are you kidding me?!” twice. Then again, that’s why we love high school sports. Rye can laugh about it now.
BEST DIRECTOR: Given to the best coaching performance throughout the week. Nominees: Dennis Hurlie (Rye), Gina Maher (Irvington), Kevin Metcalf (North Rockland), Dan Ricci (Ossining), Chris Woolgar (Pearl River).
And the Leafy goes to… Dennis Hurlie, Rye.
This was probably the hardest one to choose of the bunch, from narrowing down five nominees to picking a winner. I’m going with Hurlie due to the fact that the Garnets trailed Pearl River for a significant portion of the game in their semifinal, and was neck and neck with Ursuline in the final. Rye could’ve very easily had another one-and-done performance this year, but Hurlie’s coaching helped lift the Garnets into the finals, where they eventually lifted the gold ball.
BEST ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE: Given to the best performance by a player on a championship team who was not named tournament MVP. Nominees: Lindsay Chafizadeh (Irvington), Maddie Eck (Rye), Kailah Harris (Ossining), Shadeen Samuels (Ossining), Missy Lisikatos (Haldane)
And the Leafy goes to… Shadeen Samuels, Ossining.
In almost any other year, Samuels’ performance throughout Championship Week — 26.0 ppg, 12.5 rpg, 4.5 spg, 2.5 apg — would’ve likely ran away with tournament MVP honors. The Seton Hall-bound senior fouled out in the finals against North Rockland, although she probably wouldn’t have played much the rest of the way anyhow, but it shows the kind of work she put in before an early exit. Easy choice here.
BEST ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE: Given to the player who had the best overall performance on her team throughout the week. Nominees: Kayla Correa (New Rochelle), Aubrey Griffin (Ossining), Lindsay Halpin (Irvington), Teisha Hyman (Woodlands), Katie Popp (Rye).
And the Leafy goes to… Lindsay Halpin, Irvington.
Virtually any of the nominees could have won this, but Halpin’s 45-point performance in Monday’s Class B championship game made her more than worthy of the honor. Her back-and-forth battle with Hyman (42 points) was the best head-to-head performance I’ve ever covered live, and has to be among the greatest in tournament history.
BEST PICTURE: Given to the team who had it all — directing, acting, supporting cast, visual effects, screenplay — this week. This is the most prestigious award of the bunch. Nominees: Albertus Magnus, Keio, Ossining, Rye, Valhalla.
And the Leafy goes to… Rye.
There wasn’t much that was missing from the Garnets’ run to their first title since 2004. Popp and Eck were the spectacular dynamic duo they’ve been all year, Hurlie was brilliant on the sideline, Ali Imam was a monster on the boards, Taylor Maurer ran the offense to near-perfection, the students were loud, supportive, and, “creative” with their chants, and it was a terrific storyline for Rye. There were plenty of worthy candidates, but I felt Rye had the most well-rounded of the field.
Twitter: @Zacchio_LoHud, @LoHudGirlsHoops