Brooke O’Shea once again came up with the game’s most important defensive plays, just when her team needed them the most.
The 5-foot-9 senior created a pair of jump-ball situations in the final minute — the second earning the Warriors a critical possession — as Averill Park earned its third consecutive trip to the New York state girls’ Class A basketball finals with a 55-48 victory over Pearl River of Section I Friday at Hudson Valley Community College.
Averill Park (18-5) takes on Rochester East of Section V in the championship game tonight at 7 at HVCC. The Eagles advanced past Elwood-John Glenn, 66-49.
Pearl River (22-3) had pulled within 50-48 when Fairfield-bound senior Christa Scognamiglio made one of two free throws. Averill Park’s Julia Mai then turned the ball over against the press, but O’Shea, saddled with four fouls, stepped in to grab the ball away from Scognamiglio.
The partisan crowd erupted, however, when in a controversial call, the officials said O’Shea didn’t have possession of the ball long enough and instead called it a jump-ball situation. Pearl River maintaining possession with 46.6 seconds left.
But O’Shea wasn’t through yet. Seconds later, she once again stepped in to tie up Scoganamiglio, and this time, the Warriors took possession.
Averill Park then clinched the game by making five of six shots at the line in the final 33.2 seconds. Mai, who made several clutch free throws in the final seconds of the Warriors’ 46-40 win over Jamesville-DeWitt last week, was 4-for-4.
“She has monkey hands,” said Mai of O’Shea, who also scored a game-high 17 points.
“Brooke has the fastest hands around. She’s the best defender in Section II,” added Averill Park coach Sean Organ.
“I knew I had four fouls, but I couldn’t think about that,” said O’Shea. “The first jump-ball situation, I knew that she was their best player, and I had to make the play. I knew it was my last shot to help our team.”
“It doesn’t get old,” said Organ about another trip to the championship game for the Warriors, who won the Federation title in 2010. “Every year, we get new kids on the varsity who make a lot of sacrifices to play on this team. We overcame some adversity this year. We knew that Pearl River was an unbelievable team with some unbelievable shooters, but our foundation is defense.
“I think this shows how good the Suburban Council is,” Organ said. “We played some tough games against teams like Shenendehowa and Colonie, and that got us ready for the tournament.
“I think this is all about unfinished business. We fell short of the championship last year, because I think we celebrated too much after our semifinal win. We didn’t show up against Peekskill.”
Averill Park took a 13-9 first-quarter lead, and the Warriors stretched their advantage to 24-15 on a three-pointer by Alison Nunziato with 3:07 left in the first half.
But Pearl River stormed back with a 9-0 run to square the game, 24-24, at halftime. Offensive rebounding was the key for Pearl River.
“We had some rebounding issues in the second quarter,” said Organ.
Averill Park took a 38-33 lead in the third quarter, with O’Shea scoring six points, but the Pirates’ pressure defense forced numerous Averill Park turnovers, and Pearl River cashed in on the other end of the court to get back into the game.
A driving layup by Marissa Scognamiglio, Christa’s younger sister, put Pearl River on top, 47-46, with 2:27 left, but O’Shea’s layup, on a nifty feed by Mai, put the Warriors back in front, 48-47, before Mai then hit both ends of a one-and-one to make the score 50-48.
Pearl River had two open three-point attempts in the final 30 seconds, but both failed.
“I felt my heart drop into my stomach when they tried those three-pointers. They were both open looks,” said Organ.
Mai finished with 14 points for Averill Park.
Cook 1-2-5, M. Scognamiglio 4-4-13, Sullivan 4-0-8, DeCourcey 2-0-4, C. Scognamiglio 2-8-13, Carty 2-1-5. Totals: 15-15-48.
Mai 3-7-14, Donnelly 2-0-5, Nunziato 1-1-4, O’Shea 6-5-17, Ryan 4-1-9, Carney 2-2-6. Totals: 18-41 16-23 55.
Averill Park 13 11 14 17 — 55
Peark River 9 15 9 15 — 48
Three-point goals: Mai, Donnelly, Nunziato, Cook, M. Scognamiglio, C. Scognamiglio.
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Categories: High School Sports