CORTLANDT MANOR — In a night that featured laughter, tears, a ton of pictures, and even more applause, this year’s Section 1 girls basketball awards dinner at Colonial Terrace on Tuesday had a bit of everything.
As is custom with the all-section dinner, the first awards announced were the recipients of the Isabel Costa All-Academic team. This year’s honorees were: Jordan Amorelli (Pelham), Marion Dietz (John Jay-East Fishkill), Maddie Eck (Rye), Sam Fitzgerald (John Jay-East Fishkill), Kristen Gjelaj (Tappan Zee), Katie McLoughlin (Ursuline), Frannie Merkel (Brewster), Reena Olsen (Putnam Valley), Ashley Polera (Byram Hills) and Kathleen Rooney (White Plains).
Rye head coach Dennis Hurlie, who stole the show last year after filling in as a guest speaker, was a highly-anticipated speaker this year after grabbing league coach of the year honors. At the dinner, each league coach of the year presents the all-section and all-section honorable mention selections to each player in their respective league, while adding a few words about each player.
Once again, Hurlie did not disappoint.
Ossining head coach Dan Ricci applauded the parity across the section, saying that past years’ section champions were relatively predictable, whereas that wasn’t necessarily the case this year. And he kind of had a point. Nobody was positive who would win Class A, Class B, or even Class C, but Ricci’s Pride seemed to have a firm grasp on the Class AA title after winning the previous five gold balls.
“How many people had Ossining in their bracket?” Hurlie opened as one of his first jokes.
“I was trying to mask the sadness and frustration of not being coach of the year,” Hurlie said of last year’s speech, when he filled in for Harrison head coach Louis Kail. “But this year, the league coaches got it right, and I don’t have to be funny anymore, we can just get on with the awards.”
I was honored to present this year’s Section 1 “Miss Basketball” award after being asked by Ossining head coach Dan Ricci. Pride senior Shadeen Samuels took home the section’s top award after garnering MVP honors at the state and Federation tournament. Prior to the announcement of the Miss Basketball award, I unveiled the Journal News first team all-stars for Rockland and Westchester/Putnam counties, including players of the year Gabby Cajou (North Rockland) and Samuels, for the first time ever.
Ricci asked if we can make this a yearly occurrence, which, I fully expect to do going forward. Personally, I think it’s a great way for the honorees to truly be recognized, as opposed to just opening the paper on a random day. We also moved the release date of the all-star packages (originally slated for Apr. 8) up to Wednesday so that they would run the day after the dinner.
In the future, I imagine that we will schedule the all-star packages to run the day after the all-section dinner. Ricci and I wanted to keep everything under wraps, so we did not tell any of the coaches or players what was happening until I took the stage.