WHITE PLAINS, N.Y.— It was a tall task, but by the end of the game it was clear the Somers girls varsity basketball team was up to the challenge.
One look on the court told you that Somers was at a big height disadvantage as it squared off against Monroe-Woodbury in the first bracket championship game of the Slam Dunk Tournament at the Westchester County Center. The Crusaders were led by 6-foot-2 senior center Willow Duffell on a roster with seven girls 5-10 or taller. Somers answered with 5-7 Livy Rosenzweig defending Duffell in the middle.
Somers, however, battled right to the end with one last chance and a three-point shot with six seconds left that missed the mark in a 38-35 setback to the defending Class AA champions from Section 9 on Dec. 27.
“They’re really good, a couple of Division 1 players. For us to stay with them and rebound like we did, as a coach I’m very happy,” Somers coach Marc Hattem said. “I’m happy, but the kids are not and that tells me a lot about them. This wasn’t a moral victory. They had three or four kids on the floor taller than our tallest player.”
Hannah Angelini led the way for the Tuskers with 13 points. She also scored 17 points to lead Somers to victory in the opening round of the tournament over Cardinal Spellman. She wasn’t happy at the end, but feels the Tuskers performance overall at the tournament gives them confidence heading into the new year as they want to earn a trip back to the County Center when it counts for the playoffs.
“I want nothing more than to come back here in February,” Angelini said. “We didn’t know much about them (Monroe-Woodbury). We played tough and executed our scouting report. I always knew we could play tough. That team is a great team and it shows how bad we wanted it when facing a team like that. Coming into this tournament, it was a way for us to show the rest of the section who we are. Coach said just go out there and do our thing.”
It looked like the Tuskers might be overmatched as the Crusaders opened up a 10-point lead at 16-6 early in the second quarter, but a three-point shot by Angelini at the buzzer had the lead down to 18-15 at the half.
It was a battle the rest of the way as the Tuskers cut the lead down to two points, but Monroe-Woodbury was able to hang on.
A big reason was rebounding as the Tuskers battled the taller Crusaders under the boards. Rosenzweig finished with eight points and 12 rebounds, while Liv Lipski had six points and 11 rebounds.
“I was laughing at times looking at Livy on the court. She was like six or seven inches shorter, but she’s such a great athlete and she played incredible,” Hattem said of Rosenzweig. “Hannah [Angelini] does everything for us. She runs the point, plays center and everything in between for us. The girls did such a great job. At 16-6, that was a breaking point. We could have gone either way and we went the right way and that tells me a lot about these kids.”
In the first game against Cardinal Spellman, a trio of Tuskers scored in double figures as they pulled out a 54-49 victory.
In addition to Angelini scoring 17 points, Lipski netted 16 points and Jackie Penzo scored 11 points. Danielle DiCintio added eight points.
With the victory over Spellman and loss to Monroe-Woodbury, the Tuskers now stand at 4-4 overall heading into the second half of the season. Hattem hopes they can continue to improve and get ready for a strong finish to earn another chance to play at the County Center.
“The goal was to get here tonight for the final. We played well, but it doesn’t mean we’ll be back here,” Hattem said. “Last year, they really wanted it and didn’t get here. Now, as a coach, I have a friendly reminder that if you want it you’ve got to keep working hard to get back here.”
Somers entered league play as it hosted Walter Panas on Jan. 4 and travels to Lakeland for a 6 p.m. game two days later. The Tuskers then host John Jay-Cross River at 6 p.m. on Jan. 9.