WHITE PLAINS – Rye girls basketball fans were surprised Tuesday night when Westchester County Center public address announcer Rich Leaf read aloud, “Kat—” during the starting lineups and it was not followed by “ie Popp.”
The Garnets’ junior shooting guard, who took home MVP honors at the Section 1 Class A tournament on the very same court just two days prior, sat for the opening 6:30 of a 57-37 state regional semifinal win over Saugerties due to a stomach bug she had been battling since Monday.
Rye head coach Dennis Hurlie said Popp was up until 5 a.m. Tuesday and was throwing up just minutes before tipoff. Junior Kate Robbins got the start in place off her classmate, who still managed to score 16 points off the bench.
“About 45 minutes before we were going to get on the bus, her dad called me, and I didn’t recognize the number so I didn’t pick up,” Hurlie said. “Then when I got the message, I called right away.”
The Garnets did not miss Popp at the start of the game. Senior point guard Taylor Maurer came out of the gate torrid, scoring nine of the team’s first 16 points.
“I was freaking out, kind of. I think everyone was nervous,” Maurer said. “She still played amazing. Even being sick, she’s still a beast.”
Hurlie said he did not expect a “pretty” game, with the team coming off the high of its first section title in more than a decade, but that it found a way to win.
“Survive and advance,” he said.
The Garnets (21-4) advanced to Friday’s state regional final, where they will play Vestal at SUNY Cortland at a time to be determined. The winner will move on to the state semifinals at Hudson Valley Community College.
Rye has not been to Troy since reaching the Class B state final in 2004, also the last time it won a section title.
With or without Popp, the Garnets still had forward Maddie Eck in their repertoire. The two make for one of the top scoring duos in the section, and Tuesday was no different. The Amherst-bound senior led all scorers with 23 points and showed off her stellar defensive skills on the other end of the court.
“As long as we’ve got her on the floor, we’ve got a chance to win,” Hurlie said of Eck.