NORTH SALEM, N.Y.— It has been an up and down season for North Salem, but it hopes that a dominant 48-36 win over rival Keio Academy on Jan. 14 in the consolation game of North Salem’s Booster Club Tournament will result in consistency.
“We really spread the court nicely and drove,” North Salem coach Eric Buzzetto said. “Once we get the drive going, we can get the pitch outs to the corner. There were girls hitting shots who normally don’t hit shots. It was really nice to see that they were not afraid to shoot.”
Freshman Julia DeSanto got things cooking with an underhand scoop pass over the heads of the defense to eighth grade point guard Abby Mascia for the fast break layup that put the Tigers up 16-8, forcing a Keio timeout early in the second quarter.
“[Abby] is a great kid,” Buzzetto said of Mascia, who was called up to varsity for the tourney. “JV and varsity practices together, and we felt that she could definitely handle it, and she played like a veteran senior today. She did an absolutely phenomenal job and I could not ask for more from anyone.”
Mascia earned all-tournament team honors as the Tigers pulled through without their two point guards in sophomore Grace Curran (family obligation) and senior captain Maggie Boardman, who was out due to an ankle injury. In addition, junior Catrina Cantrarella sat out with an injured back.
“It feels great to play with the [varsity] because I have been practicing with them for so long,” Mascia said. “It feels good also to be an inspiration to the younger kids who are good at basketball and want to play up.”
Crashing the boards with intensity and closely defending the Unicorns, North Salem built a 26-15 lead by halftime.
Sophomore Kara Rollins dished to a sharp-cutting Mascia for another layup to stretch North Salem’s advantage to 35-17 with a minute remaining in the third quarter.
DeSanto put the exclamation point on the win by banking in a buzzer-beater just past midcourt to hand the Tigers a 21-point edge entering the fourth quarter after only letting Keio score four third quarter points.
“Everybody played help defense and it really was a whole team effort,” Mascia said. “It wasn’t just one person that got the win today.”
North Salem’s 3-2 zone worked wonders in stopping the Unicorns from penetrating the lane.
“We knew that Keio can shoot,” Buzzetto said. “We saw when we played them earlier this season. I was shocked that the girls picked it up right away and they did great.”
Freshman Elisabeth Squire disrupted them all game using great length and athleticism.
“Liz played very confidently,” Buzzetto said. “She is a very good shot blocker. She had at least five blocks and had a ton of rebounds. I wouldn’t be shocked if she had a triple-double. She played lights out and our offensive movement got her space to shoot. We always want her to shoot.”
Squire certainly listened and led the Tigers with 14 points while sophomore Gabby Marino racked up 13 points. Mascia tallied 12 points in the balanced attack as DeSanto had five. Rollins added four points and Alina DiMella scored two.
“We started to move the ball around a lot more and get open shots,” Squire said. “A lot of us have the talent to block people, like Gabby [Marino] can block anyone. Everyone does really great on defense and I am so proud of them.”
The spirited win came just a day after North Salem was bested by Croton-Harmon, 45-23, in the first-round of its tourney.
“[Croton-Harmon] press really frustrated us,” Buzzetto said. “We couldn’t get into a rhythm.”
Rollins paced the Tigers with seven points and Squire chipped in with six. Mascia stepped up to score four points in her first varsity game. DiMella, Marino and Amira Flayhan tallied two points.
North Salem (6-5) hopes to stay over the .500 hump when it visits Pawling on Thursday, Jan. 19, at 4:30 p.m. It will also host Palisade Prep two days later at 11 a.m.