WHITE PLAINS, N.Y.— North Salem girls basketball coach Eric Buzzetto knew it would take a strong performance from his young Tigers, but he had reason for high hopes as they squared off against second-seeded Alexander Hamilton in the semifinals of the Section 1 Class C tournament at the Westchester County Center on Feb. 28.
After all, North Salem had faced Hamilton during the regular season and it was a close loss. The Tigers were the third-seed looking for a chance to advance to the championship game.
Hamilton, however, had two senior stars determined to make the most of the chance to play at the County Center. North Salem has just one senior on the roster and the young Tigers were no match for the veteran Red Raiders as Hamilton took charge right from the start and never looked back.
Hamilton cruised to a 56-19 victory to advance to the championship game and Buzzetto was left trying to turn the result into a positive for the underclassmen on the roster who will be back again for the Tigers.
“It’s a tough place to play, but it’s tough for both teams and Hamilton handled it a lot better,” Buzzetto said. “We had a good game plan and a couple of good practices coming into the game, but we played really nervous. I was kind of shocked. We’re very young, not one senior in our starting five, and things look good for the future. Overall, I’m very proud of the girls, but we just got outplayed tonight.”
Hamilton jumped out to a 13-5 lead in the first quarter and the Red Raiders extended the lead to 24-10 by halftime.
Any thoughts of a second half comeback were quickly put to rest as Hamilton outscored the Tigers 17-7 in the third to open up a 41-17 lead.
It was just too much Nina Gill for Hamilton as the Tigers could not contain the senior star as she led all scorers with 20 points. Fellow senior Madison Hood was right behind with 19 points as that duo was too much for North Salem to handle.
“She absolutely ran the court, did whatever she wanted, when she wanted, and did it very well,” Buzzetto said of Gill. “Hats off to her, she played a great game.”
The fourth quarter belonged to Hamilton as the Raiders kept the pressure on and dominated to wrap up the victory. Hamilton advanced to the finals where the Raiders fell to eventual champion Haldane.
North Salem struggled to get going offensively all game long. The Tigers were led by all-tournament selection Grace Curran, Alina DiMella and Gabby Marino as they each had four points. Senior Maggie Boardman had two points, as did Elisabeth Squire and Abby Mascia, while Julia DeSanto had one point to round out the scoring for North Salem (11-11).
For Boardman, it was the final game of her high school hoops career as she is the only senior on the North Salem roster.
“I’ve coached her for four years. When she was a freshman, we brought her up for sectionals,” Buzzetto said of Boardman. “She’s just a tough kid. If I tell her to run through a brick wall, she’d spend all day trying. I’m definitely going to miss her—a good captain, a great leader.”
While Boardman will be lost to graduation, she is the only one and Buzzetto hopes the rest of the Tigers will learn from the experience and come back hungry for next year.
“That’s the positive, in our starting five we had a junior, two sophomores, a freshman and an eighth-grader,” Buzzetto said of the young Tigers. “We’re really young and just need to put in a lot of time in the offseason. Most of these kids play three sports. It’s hard, but this summer we’re going to put in a lot of time and hard work.”