TROY, N.Y.— After the tears stopped flowing, following a 53-41 loss to Section 5’s Pittsford Mendon in the Class A state semifinals, Somers’ varsity girls basketball team was able to reflect on what was a history-making season.
The Tuskers earned their first-ever trip to the Westchester County Center, claimed a section title and won a regional crown.
“It was everything I could have asked for and definitely what I hoped for,” first-year Somers coach Marc Hattem said. “The Gold Ball and the plaque from Saturday (regionals) has been on my dining room table for a few weeks now and I smile every morning when I see it. It’s been an amazing journey and a magical season. I’m a very lucky man.”
Somers was neck-and-neck with Mendon and trailed just 36-35 after three quarters, but the wheels fell off in the fourth quarter on Friday, March 17, at Hudson Valley Community College in Troy.
The Vikings began the decisive quarter on a 7-0 run before sophomore Hannah Angelini nailed a 3-pointer to trim the deficit to 43-38 midway through the quarter.
Somers’ next point, however, came with 1:27 left on a Faith Anne Ferguson free throw and a comeback was unlikely with the deficit at 10 points.
The fatigued Tuskers were held to just six points in the fourth quarter.
“We had a couple of breakdowns defensively and I think they found holes in our zone,” Hattem said. “I think they adjusted at halftime to our pressure, which was effective in the first half. We didn’t hit shots.They were able to hurt us in the half-court a little bit and we weren’t able to pressure them. It was a bad fourth quarter for us. I thought today was a winnable game, even against a 25-0 team. The kids competed, but it’s athletics and you come up short sometimes.”
Junior Liv Lipski finished with a team-high 14 points, including nine points in the second quarter as the Tuskers and Vikings were tied at 23-23 at the break.
Fellow junior Jackie Penzo scored eight of her 10 points in the first quarter. She was named to the all-tournament team.
Angelini finished with eight points while Ferguson had seven points and earned the sportsmanship award.
Somers was saddled with foul trouble in the first half as Angelini picked up two quick fouls, relegating her to the bench. Penzo and Lipski carried the scoring load to keep Somers in it, netting 17 of the team’s 23 first-half points.
“Liv and Jackie were incredible all season,” Rosenzweig said. “They were amazing today and impress me so much. They stepped up big time and did a great job.”
Somers, which is normally an efficient perimeter-shooting squad, struggled from behind the three-point line against the Vikings’ 2-3 zone. Hattem said he was worried in the back of his head about facing a zone defense after playing against man-to-man in their previous 10 games.
“Some of our shooters struggled,” Hattem said. “If you’re going to live by the three, we’ve got to die by it and today it hurt us.”
Its ability to finish at the rim against a bigger Mendon team, along with its tenacious defense, kept Somers in the contest.
“We always try to do our best on defense because defense wins games,” Rosenzweig said. “If our shots aren’t falling or if something’s not going right on offense, we just have to buckle down on defense and get stops. They killed us on the boards and inside, though.”
Rosenzweig said that playing in the state final four and bonding with her teammates was an experience she’ll always cherish.
“I’m just really proud of us that we got here,” she said. “We fell short, but we stayed with them. They’re an amazing team.”
Mendon finished as the state-runner up, falling to Jamesville-DeWitt 48-46 the next night.
The Tuskers ended their historic campaign with a record of 20-6.
With just two players graduating in Rosenzweig and Ferguson, the Tuskers are already eying a second-straight section title. “The best thing we have going for us is our youth and I think we’ll grow from this,” Hattem said. “It was an uphill battle this season, but I don’t know we’ll have an uphill battle a year from now. We’ll be older, more experienced and will be able to handle it better.”
The two senior captains will no doubt be missed next season.
“On the bus ride home I’ll tell them how much I love them and care for them,” Hattem said. “Without them—as a new coach—this could not be possible. I’m a big leadership guy and our seniors were amazing. I’ll sit down and just tell them, ‘Thank you.’ Sometimes those two words mean a lot in these situations.”
After falling in the section quarterfinals the previous three seasons, it all came together for Somers in Hattem’s first season at the helm. Hattem took over for Kristi Dini, who was let go after her fourth season with the team.
“I am so happy for coach Hattem. He did an amazing job this year,” Rosenzweig said. “To make it to states when it’s your first year at Somers coaching, it’s incredible. It was pretty crazy that we made it this far—no one expected this. We just kept going and pushing. I’m really proud of us.”