WHITE PLAINS, N.Y.— It all happened in the blink of an eye.
Livy Rosenzweig came from behind for the steal, dribbled up the court and made the biggest layup of her life.
The basket gave Somers a one-point lead in the Section 1 Class A championship game against Eastchester with just 26 seconds left. Somers held on for a 49-48 victory to capture the Gold Ball on March 5 at the Westchester County Center.
“I always just want the ball,” Rosenzweig said of the crucial play. “I finally got a clean steal, went down and I was just praying I made the layup. I’m not really that good at my layups, but I made that one when it counted.”
First-year Somers coach Marc Hattem said he has never coached a Division 1 lacrosse player before in Rosenzweig, a senior captain who is committed to Loyola. He said that her quickness and strength led to the game-winning steal.
“In that situation, we were down one and I said, ‘Listen, Livy, just come off your girl and please go steal the ball,’” Hattem said. “And she came out of nowhere.”
It was second-seeded Somers’ first section title in the history of its program.
“When I’m retired in Florida, I’ll look back and realize how amazing this win really was,” Hattem said. “I never saw this coming—never.”
Sophomore Hannah Angelini, who was named the tournament’s MVP, made 1 of 2 free throws to extend the lead to two points with 17.2 seconds to go. Senior captain Faith Anne Ferguson added two more free throws with 7.4 seconds left to make it 49-45 and virtually seal the win.
“I still can’t believe it,” Angelini said of winning a section title. “Just to do it with these girls and with this new coach—I love all of them. We knew coming into the season that we were going to be a really good team. We have so much talent on this team and I think just the hard work that we put in and the further on we got into the season, we realized if we’re at our best, it’s hard for teams to compete with us.”
Fifth-seeded Eastchester hit a deep three with 3.9 seconds left and had an opportunity to win it, but the shot was short and the Tusker celebration commenced.
The game didn’t start ideally for the Tuskers.
A stagnant Somers offense managed just two points in the first quarter and trailed 17-12 at halftime.
Hattem let them hear about it.
“That was probably the worst half of basketball we’ve ever played,” Rosenzweig said. “He definitely let us know that. We weren’t sharing the ball like we usually do and weren’t moving the ball fast. We just weren’t playing as a team. We had to get stops on defense and let that translate into our offense—our Somers basketball.”
On top of putting the Tuskers ahead with under 30 seconds to play, Rosenzweig was the spark the Tuskers needed in the second half. She was all over the court, diving for loose balls and even hitting 3-pointers.
“I just really wanted to win and I wanted to do it for our team,” said Rosenzweig, who was named to the all-tournament team. “We’ve worked so hard and I just wanted to do whatever I had to do to get the ‘W.’”
Hattem asks his team consistently if they’re going to sink or swim. After sinking in the first half, they looked more like Michael Phelps in the second half.
“Our backs were against the wall,” Hattem said. “They saw the adversity and said, ‘Are we sinking or are we swimming?’ They just made shots and moved the ball.”
Freshman Danielle DiCintio nailed a 3-pointer and made 1 of 2 free throws to start the third-quarter surge. A Jackie Penzo left-handed layup followed by a fast break bucket from Penzo saw Somers cut the lead to 25-20 midway through the quarter.
Eastchester had the answer, however, and went up 30-22 after a three-point play.
Somers battled back again behind another Penzo drive and a top of the key three from Rosenzweig, cutting the lead to 30-27 after three quarters.
“In the third and fourth quarters, she really got our energy up,” Angelini said of Rosenzweig. “She works so hard. She’s a hustle player and a team player. I can’t say enough about her.”
Penzo kicked a pass out to DiCintio, who nailed a three just over a minute into the final quarter to give Somers a one-point lead. The freshman knocked down another three just 42 seconds later to give the Tuskers a 34-32 edge.
“I tried my hardest along with the team to get back into the game and we settled down at halftime,” DiCintio said. “Coach told me, ‘Keep working and your shots will fall.’ And I listened to him.”
DiCintio scored all 14 of points in the second half to lead the Tuskers.
“Dani’s amazing,” said Penzo, who was named to the all-tournament team. “She’s the only freshman I know that could pull that off.”
The freshman displayed incredible composure in the biggest game of her 14-year-old life.
“At halftime Dani got a strong piece of my mind to say the least,” Hattem said. “I thought the kid responded and she hit shots. I tell Dani all the time, ‘If you’re open, shoot the ball.’ When she stepped into them—I swear—I really felt that they were good.”
Penzo went 1 of 2 from the line and DiCintio hit two free throws to increase the lead to 37-32 with just under five minutes to spare.
Eastchester, however, wasn’t going down easy. The Eagles hit two free throws and a 3-pointer to tie the game at 37-37.
Rosenzweig sunk another three to increase the lead to 40-37 with 3:34 to play.
Eastchester fought back again, taking a 42-40 lead. Junior Liv Lipski broke loose for a fast break bucket. Eastchester answered with a three-point play, but DiCintio fought her way to the bucket and finished a difficult shot inside to cut the deficit to one-point with 1:22 to go. That set the stage for Rosenzweig’s sacred steal.
Angelini and Penzo both finished with 10 points, while Rosenzweig added eight points.
Behind 18 points from Angelini, Somers defeated No. 6 Tappan Zee 38-18 in the Section 1 Class A semifinals on March 2 at the County Center.
The tenacious Tusker defense held a normally potent Lady Dutchmen offense to just five points in the second half and one in the fourth quarter. Tappan Zee was 0 for 14 from beyond the arc.
“Coach gave us a great scouting report,” Angelini said of Hattem. “He told us if we stop their offense early (in a possession), they won’t be able to get into it and start their offense. I think we did an incredible job of that.”
Somers led from wire-to-wire and hit six 3-pointers in the contest. The Tuskers, who held a 25-13 advantage at halftime and were up 33-17 after three quarters, were able to get in the paint and finish consistently against an undersized Tappan Zee team.
“This team has so many great shooters and that really forced them to spread out their defense,” said Angelini, who also grabbed seven rebounds. “It opened up the lanes for me and everyone else.”
The Tuskers were able to overcome foul trouble. Penzo picked up four fouls in the first half and Rosenzweig, who was crucial on the glass, was tagged with her fourth foul in the second half. It didn’t deter them, however.
“Coach as always said to us, ‘When adversity hits—what are we going to do? Are we going to sink or are we going to swim?’” Angelini said. “I think we swam. We stuck together, stayed as a team, stayed calm and kept our composure. That just shows that nothing can get in our way.”
The Tuskers (19-5) also received contributions from DiCintio (seven points, five rebounds, three assists) and Lipski (six points).
After a tumultuous offseason which included the departure of former coach Kristi Dini, Hattem stepped in and took over a unit that had graduated key point guard Gabby Rosenzweig and center Megan McHugh.
After a hot start, however, it was apparent the Tuskers had something special.
“At first I didn’t think we could do anything, really,” Penzo said. “But after the first couple of games, I was like, ‘We’re going to go far. We’ve got this.’”
They were never lacking in confidence.
“I knew we could do it all season,” Rosenzweig said. “Everyone just bought into coach’s system, trusted him and trusted each other. I’m so happy and I’m so happy it happened for him the way it did. He’s an amazing coach.”
Somers isn’t looking to stop here. The Tuskers received a bye into the Class A regional final and will face either Section 9’s Cornwall or Section 4’s Vestal on March 10 at Pace University.