WHITE PLAINS – Ahead of Saturday’s Section 1 Class C semifinal, Keio head coach Steven Loscher was standing on the Westchester County Center floor measuring out the court with his team surrounding him.
The first-year coach had shown his team the basketball underdog classic “Hoosiers” a week prior, and living out one of the flick’s most famous scenes was just one of his ways to calm the Unicorns’ nerves.
The other involved showing his team a photo from his eighth-grade CYO championship, for laughs.
“Nine of my 13 kids have never been in this building,” Loscher said, following a 46-31 win over North Salem. “We don’t have the basketball IQ as some of these other teams that have played since third grade, but we make up for it in heart.”
The Unicorns showed little hesitation, swarming the Tigers on defense and attacking collectively on offense. Ayano Miyauchi paced the team with 10 points, while Hana Nakajima and Rumi Hirose each added eight points.
Keio has put together its best season in program history (15-6) under Loscher, and is one win away from its first-ever gold ball. The top-seeded Unicorns will face two-time defending champion Haldane on Monday at 5 p.m. in the title game.
“We couldn’t go to the County Center last year, so we were really motivated to go this year,” said Keio senior captain Marina Kofukugawa, who finished with nine points. “We knew that we would be a little nervous, and anxious, but (Loscher is) a really good coach. He knows how to calm us down and get ready for this.”
The Unicorns brought one of the largest fan bases of the girls tournament to the County Center, with 150 Keio students and the Ossining girls basketball team cheering them on.
Ossining head coach Dan Ricci said he planned to support his good friend Loscher, and will be back for Monday’s title game. Keio was in attendance for the Pride’s semifinal win Friday and will be cheering them on in the Class AA final Sunday.
When Loscher stepped down as Peekskill’s head coach over the summer after just one season and a run to the Section 1 Class A final, he was disheartened about what could’ve been with the Lady Red Devils this year.
“I knew we would’ve won the gold ball,” he said.
Loscher gets another shot Monday, but said the season has already been an overwhelming success for a program that won just four games last year.
“Win, lose or draw, they’re winners, and it was an unbelievable season,” he said. “but it would be storybook if we could win the gold ball.”