SOMERS, N.Y.— Somers knew it was in for a battle when John Jay-Cross River came to town for a Section 1 Class A opening round matchup on Feb. 18.
After all, the Tuskers and Indians had played each other twice in league competition during the regular season so they both were fully aware of each others’ strengths and weaknesses.
That resulted in a too-close-for-comfort contest as the second-seeded Tuskers survived with a 51-48 win over No. 15 John Jay. The Tuskers advanced to the quarterfinals where they will host No. 7 Rye, the defending Section 1 Class A champion, at 4 p.m. on Feb. 23.
“John Jay came to play. We knew just because we beat them twice it wasn’t going to be easy,” said junior forward Liv Lipski, who finished with a game-high 19 points and swished five 3-pointers. “But in the second half I think it really hit us that we need to come together and win this game. We weren’t going to lose that game no matter what so we just picked up the energy and held it out.”
The Tuskers erupted offensively in the first half, but the Indians almost matched them on that end of the floor.
Lipski knocked down three 3-pointers during a second-quarter surge. A Pooja Rao layup on a feed from Hannah Angelini followed a Lipski trey as the Tuskers went up 25-18 midway through the quarter.
“The key to getting off to a fast start was moving the ball around and finding the open players,” junior guard Jackie Penzo said. “The team did a great job of passing the ball into the paint for easy layups.”
Angelini assisted another Lipski three as Somers went up 28-20, but John Jay answered with a three-point play.
“[John Jay] knew everything about us,” Lipski said. “They knew how to defend everyone on the team so it was hard. They were prepared and came to win. It’s hard to beat a team three times but we came to win too.”
Danielle DiCintio knocked down a corner 3-pointer and Angelini went coast-to-coast to send the Tuskers into halftime leading by six points, 33-27.
While the first half was an offensive showcase, the second half was a defensive slugfest. Somers was only able to muster 18 points in the second half, but held on for the win.
“We were able to pull off the win by regrouping and trying to get back on track with our game plan late in the fourth quarter,” Penzo said. “We knew that it was going to be tough, but we just stayed positive as a team and were able to get the win.”
Penzo (nine points), Angelini (six points), DiCintio (six points), Tina Hebeisen (five points), Faith Anne Ferguson (four points) and Rao (four points) all contributed to the win.
The Tuskers (16-5) will now look to advance to the Westchester County Center for the first time in history when they take on the Garnets on Thursday.
“We just need to stick to what we’ve been doing the whole season: compete to the best of our ability, keep the energy up and just come up with a W,” Lipski said. “We are preparing for this game like no other and we are on a mission. Everyone on this team has been working hard these past couple of days before the game and we are ready to win.”
Somers defeated Rye 60-39 early in the regular season, but the Tuskers know they can’t go into the game too overconfident.
“We know that we can’t underestimate any team, even if we’ve beaten them before,” Penzo said. “As long as we stick to the game plan that coach gives us and just give everything we have for 32 minutes, we should be successful.”