SOMERS, N.Y. – Somers coach Marc Hattem said there are practices where senior Pooja Rao simply cannot miss from three-point land.
When she gets on a roll in a game, she is capable of carrying the Tuskers and that was on display last week.
Rao hit three 3-pointers over a two-minute span early in the fourth quarter to put away ninth-seeded Yonkers in No. 8 Somers’ 63-33 win in the Section 1 Class A opening round.
“Earlier in the game, she came over to me and said, ‘Coach, what’s wrong with my shot,’” Somers coach Marc Hattem said. “I was riding her at halftime and the timeout before that. I said, ‘Pooja, don’t do that. You’re a shooter, you’ll get the next one. Your shot looks great.’ So I think she just needed to get out of her own head. It’s good to see her get going into Wednesday’s (quarterfinal) game.”
Rao’s third 3-pointer stretched Somers’ big lead to 53-30 with 6:03 to play. She finished the Feb. 21 contest with 17 points.
“I think I was down on myself in the beginning (of the game) a little,” Rao said. “I was missing all my shots in the beginning. But my coach was like, ‘C’mon, this is not your game. Pick it up.’ I just kind of shot it with confidence and they were going in.”
Dani DiCintio led the Tuskers with a game-high 24 points.
It was a sloppy first few minutes of the third quarter where Yonkers was able to close the gap, trimming the deficit to 33-24. The Tuskers, however, closed the quarter strong. DiCintio finished on the fast break to make it 37-26 with 1:34 to go. Rao scored on a steal just 20 seconds later and DiCintio converted with 35 seconds left. DiCintio then scored on a putback with two seconds on the clock to send Somers into the fourth quarter with a 43-26 lead.
“I think we probably just realized that it’s now a single-digit game and we need to rebound a little harder,” Hattem said of the run. “If we keep coasting it’s going to be a five-point game or three-point game. It’s a hard game to play in when you play a lot of man and physical teams. They kind of just packed it in and played a zone. It got a little kooky there for a second but I wasn’t going to call timeout. I was going to hope they figured it out and they did. It didn’t feel like a 30-point win but a win’s a win.”
The Tuskers held a 33-15 lead at halftime.
Jordan May and Amy Lasher added six points apiece for Somers. Ava Giudice and Alexa Warycha each had four points. Isabella Rukaj had two points.
It was the final home game for Somers’ seniors.
“It’s kind of bittersweet and sad,” Rao said. “It’s our last time wearing the white jersey. We’re going to be the lower seed now going into all our sectionals games. But I know we’ve got this. It’s going to be a long road ahead but we can do it.”
Somers, a section finalist last season, was scheduled to travel to top-seeded Rye for the quarterfinals on Feb. 26. The Tuskers, who were banged up due to injury, fell to Rye 54-35 in their season opener back in December.
“In the beginning (of the season) we had all our players injured and it was tough,” Rao said. “Now we have everybody back. Even though we had some injuries last week, everyone’s been pretty healthy. We have a big game on Wednesday and we’re ready to go. Coach has been preparing us every single day and we’ve had long hours and long practices. But we can do it.”
May missed most of the first meeting.
“She only played I think five minutes in that first game,” Hattem noted. “We’re better even thought tonight (against Yonkers) I don’t feel like we were better. It’s just going to come down to who's got a little more toughness and fight in them. I hope whoever officiates the game let’s us play because it’s going to be a battle and it should be. I know we’re going to come to play.”