BARDONIA – Despite seeing his team score only seven points in the first quarter, Albertus Magnus head coach Pat Buckley knew the shots would start falling.
He proved to be right.
Trailing by nine to fifth-seeded Peekskill after the first quarter of a Class A quarterfinal, the fourth-seeded Lady Falcons started the second quarter on a 14-2 run to quickly take a three-point lead. Peekskill continued to battle, but Albertus Magnus held on for a 61-56 win to advance to the semifinals.
“I felt good about the shots we were getting, we just weren’t making them,” Buckley said of his team’s start. “Eventually, we would start knocking them down. We’re a resilient group.”
It was yet another chapter in a growing rivalry between the two programs, which have met in the sectional finals for the past three years. The two teams also met in the regular season earlier in the season, with Albertus coming away with a 61-60 win.
While this was a quarterfinal, it had the feel of a championship tilt.
“We always know that Peekskill is going to give their biggest punch, so we just had to fight back, and that’s what we did tonight,” Albertus Magnus sophmore Kate Mager said. “We had to just focus on this game; last time we played them, we had 30 turnovers, and I think we limited that a lot today.”
After the first half, which ended with Albertus up 35-30, Peekskill cut the lead to 35-33 on the first possession of the third quarter on a corner 3-pointer from Niya Fields. Mager came back with a 3-pointer of her own, and Peekskill would not get any closer the rest of the game.
“It just rolled in their favor; they went on a run, and we couldn’t dig out of that hole,” said Peekskill head coach Kimberly Saxton, a first-year coach. “It’s a tough way to go out, but we went out kicking and screaming.”
In addition to the emotion from playing a rival, the Lady Falcons are also playing this postseason in the memory of former girls basketball coach and longtime athletic director Joe McGuinness, who lost his battle with cancer last Friday.
“Coach McGuinness had a huge impact on everyone,” Mager said. “We just want to win everything for him.”
Albertus Magnus, the defending sectional title holders, will play top-seeded Ursuline at the Westchester County Center in the semifinals on Thursday.
“We’re going to enjoy this win,” Buckley said. “Ursuline’s a tough team; we actually scrimmaged them in preseason and it was pretty even. We’re going to look at some tape, and we’ll be ready to go.”
Player of the game: Kate Mager, Albertus Magnus. The sophomore guard overcame a scoreless first quarter to lead her team in scoring for the game. Fifteen of her 20 points came off of 3s, and she hit three long-range shots in the second quarter to lift the Lady Falcons when they needed it the most.
Turning point: Tess Lorenz got it started in the second quarter with a 3-pointer. After Peekskill’s Taylor Clare hit an inside shot, Albertus Magnus got an and-one from Mairead Durkin, back-to-back treys from Mager, and then an and-one from Danielle LaRochelle to take its first lead of the game.
Stat line: LaRochelle finished with 14 points for Albertus Magnus, with teammate Lorenz finishing with 12 points. Durkin chipped in with nine points for the Lady Falcons. … Peekskill’s Lanay Rodney, one of the top scorers in Section 1, was held to 15 points. … Clare added 11 points for Peekskill, with Nyrie Holliman chipping in with eight points.
Quotable: “It wasn’t the way that we wanted to go out, but we just came up just short; the intensity played into that as well, but win or lose, I’m proud of them,” Saxton said. “I couldn’t have asked for a better 11 girls to coach. I’m honored to be their coach, they are a bunch of great girls and a tight-knit little family. We are going to get through this.”