MAHOPAC, N.Y.— After falling into such a big first-half hole in the opening minutes of the championship game of the Inaugural Mahopac Tip-Off Classic, it appeared that Mahopac might be on the verge of a blowout loss.
The Indians, however, didn’t fold.
Mahopac battled back in the second half, but ultimately fell to the Peekskill Red Devils 58-45 on Saturday, Dec. 3.
Peekskill, a perennial power in Class A, jumped out to a 13-0 lead in the first quarter and held a 29-9 advantage at halftime.
“In the first half we just came out so flat,” Mahopac coach Chuck Scozzafava said. “I was just amazed—we shot 2 for 18. I basically told them, ‘In the second half, let’s go out there and have some fun and play some hard basketball. Don’t worry about the first half; let’s go out and win the second half. And who knows, maybe we’ll be able to go out and pick up a win. Give me an effort.’”
The Indians provided that energy that their coach was pleading for.
The Red Devils’ suffocating pressure forced Mahopac into a myriad of turnovers and Mahopac had difficulty setting up its half-court offense in the first half. The Indians turned the tables in the second half by turning up the dial on defense. They were the aggressors and forced the Red Devils into numerous turnovers with their press, which led to layups.
“I was very proud of our second-half effort,” Scozzafava said. “The first half was a disaster, but it’s going to happen. We could have folded. I’ve seen teams fold and this could have been a real embarrassment, but I was really proud of the girls and how they came out with excitement and enthusiasm. They were diving on loose balls.”
Mahopac trailed 39-20 midway through the third quarter, but went on a 10-0 run to cut the deficit to single digits. Natalie Scanlon started the surge with a putback. Amanda Geyer stole the inbounds pass and fed Claire Felix, who did the rest. Another steal led to a Geyer (seven points) bucket. Geyer and Felix then made four straight free throws.
“[Peekskill] called three timeouts in that third quarter right in a row,” said Scozzafava, who credited assistant coach Richard Clinchy with organizing the tournament. “When you make a team do that, that tells you that you’re really starting to get to them.”
Peekskill answered back and held a 46-36 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
The Indians (1-1) responded again and a Katherine McDonough 3-pointer trimmed the deficit to 48-41. That was as close as Mahopac would get, however, as the Red Devils pulled away down the stretch.
“In the locker room after the game, we asked the girls, ‘What did we change?’” Scozzafava said of the second half. “We didn’t change our defense, we didn’t change our press and we didn’t change how we break the press. We didn’t change anything. It was the effort and the attitude that changed. In the first half we weren’t attacking. We weren’t doing the little things. We weren’t seeing the court. We just weren’t focusing like we should.”
Felix finished with 13 points and made the all-tournament team.
Allison Reilly added 10 points in the loss. McDonough had eight points, while Siobhan Hynes chipped in five points. Scozzafava was also proud of the intensity Scanlon provided.
“Natalie Scanlon was a beast today,” the veteran coach said. “Hynes did a nice job when she was in there. Felix was great and Amanda Geyer played a real good second half. Allie Reilly was really good in the second half. Hopefully we can keep this thing going.”
Mahopac defeated Newburgh Free Academy 48-30 in the opening round of the tournament—which was sponsored by Halston Media—the previous night.
Kim Schiera (11 points), Felix (10 points), Geyer (nine points) and Scanlon (six points) led a balanced scoring effort.
Schiera suffered a knee injury in the championship game. Senior forward Amanda McCarney is also out after suffering a concussion.
Mahopac will face Yorktown in the opening round of the Walter Panas tournament at 5 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 8. The championship game is at 5 p.m. on Dec. 10 with the consolation game at 11:30 a.m.
“We’ve got to be better on defense,” Scozzafava said. “We can’t play one half of defense and the other half not even be close. We were caught out of position and weren’t jumping to the gaps like we’re supposed to. We can be a little more aggressive blocking out. Those are things that are fixable. Hopefully we can fix them in practice and continue on and have a good year.”