NORTH SALEM, N.Y.— Concluding the regular season with a disappointing home loss to Horace Greeley, North Salem gave its fans their money’s worth by dismantling sixth-seeded Tuckahoe 52-13 in a Section 1 Class C quarterfinal on Feb. 22 to earn a spot in the semifinals at the Westchester County Center.
“That game (against Greeley) really stuck in their heads,” North Salem coach Eric Buzzetto said. “It could have been the best thing for us in all honesty. We came out with tough practices where we ran and did fast break drill after fast break drill. We just worked on high intensity.”
Everything went perfectly for third-seeded North Salem (11-10) from the tip, as it stifled the opponent into scoring a minuscule six points during the first half.
“Our fast break is what won us the game today,” Buzzetto said. “We ran the ball very well and made the extra passes for layups. We struggled with rebounding at Tuckahoe this season and we weren’t going to let that happen again in our gym.”
The Tigers’ offensive scheme was actually changed right before the second game of the season against Tuckahoe, when they won by 10 points. It’s now probably safe to say that the squad has gotten it down pat.
“There is no script to this offense,” Buzzetto said. “It’s read and react after a pass. Tonight, we played as good as any team in Section 1 could play that offense. It gave us a lot of options. The girls knew the plays and our inbound plays were phenomenal.”
Freshman forward Elisabeth Squire drove and crisply dished to eighth grade point guard Abby Mascia in the corner, who drained a jumper that extended the advantage to 20 points with two minutes remaining in the half.
“We always stress to make the next pass,” Buzzetto said. “Because as open as you may be, the next pass will be more open. We’ve been working on moving the ball and cutting for an hour-and-a-half for the last five or six practices.”
On the ensuing possession, sophomore Grace Curran battled for an offensive rebound before spinning and tossing up a putback basket.
Fully energized and hungry for more, the Tigers ripped open its 30-6 halftime lead even further.
The young bunch put on a clinic of hard-nosed rebounding and distribution of the basketball to the open player.
Its zone press and defense also irritated a disoriented Tuckahoe team all afternoon.
“I couldn’t be prouder of these girls,” Buzzetto said. “That we are able to get back down to the County Center—that’s been our goal. Looking at my starting five, I don’t have a senior. The future of the program looks absolutely phenomenal right now.”
Junior forward Shayna Cuascut threw on the exclamation point after muscling for an and-one layup and completing the three-point play that granted North Salem a hefty 48-13 cushion with only 3:30 remaining in the game.
Displaying her versatility in every facet, Squire guided the Tigers with 12 points. Curran played multiple positions and totaled eight points.
Mascia, sophomore Kara Rollins and freshman Julia DeSanto tallied six points apiece in the balanced attack. Alina DiMella added on five points.
Curran is only a sophomore, but is also one of the more experienced girls on an inexperienced team. She is more than ready to help lead the motivated Tigers at the County Center.
“We all 100 percent want it,” Curran said. “We all have to push it and give it our all on every play like we did today. We now have stuck to this one defense called 13. We all communicate well in it and have the same visions.”
Second-seeded Alexander Hamilton was the Tigers’ worthy opponent in the semifinals on Tuesday afternoon at the County Center.
For senior point guard Maggie Boardman, a shot at competing at the County Center for the second-straight year is not taken for granted.
“It’s an honor to play there again,” Boardman said. “I’ve played with coach Buzzetto for four years now. To be back with a lot of the same people from last year and the new people on the team is an honor. We have to work off of each other’s strengths (to win).”