SOMERS, N.Y. – Marc Hattem knew that an experienced team like Walter Panas would go on a fourth-quarter run but his Somers Tuskers were more than ready for it.
An 11-point lead heading into the fourth quarter quickly shrunk to five. But the Tuskers held the Panthers to just one point in the final 4:46 to pull out an important 56-44 league win on Jan. 17.
“I made a couple mistakes in terms of telling the girls whether we wanted to play fast with that comfortable lead or pull it out,” said Hattem, Somers’ head coach. “So that was on me. I think I confused my kids, so I’ve got to do much better there. But Panas was going to make a run. It was bound to happen. But other than that, the team’s getting better. That was a bad four minutes (early in the fourth quarter), but I thought we played excellent overall. They were going to make a run but thank goodness we held on.”
The Tuskers led 30-17 at halftime and extended the lead in the third quarter. Pooja Rao nailed a three followed by two Jordan May buckets to stretch the advantage to 42-26 midway through the quarter. Panas, however, was able to cut into the deficit, trailing 44-33 after three.
The Panthers came out firing to start the fourth quarter and Dani DiCintio picked up her fourth foul with 6:26 to go, briefly relegating her to the bench. Panas went on an 8-2 run to cut the deficit to 48-43 midway through the fourth. But the Tuskers played shutdown defense and hit their free throws down the stretch.
DiCintio, who finished with a game-high 23 points, went 4 for 4 from the foul line in the final minutes. Taylor Penzo added two late free throws and May knocked down 4 of 6 in the quarter.
May was a force inside for Somers, finishing with 12 points and 12 rebounds.
“She’s an All-League player at minimum this year,” Hattem said. “One thing I’m going to tell the girls right now is that we didn’t give her the ball enough. We became too bombs away. She’s so tenacious and she’s huge for us.”
Ava Giudice, a freshman guard, finished with 7 points. She also played lockdown defense and took some of the ball handling load off DiCintio.
“She’s such a pest defensively,” Hattem said of Giudice. “She’s this big-time soccer kid and she speeds kids up when they don’t want to be sped up. This program is in good shape the next four years because we have a floor general like her.”
Emily Arena and Rao added 6 points apiece in the win.
Somers (5-5), which lost both league games to Panas last season, was happy to get on the winning side of the rivalry. The Tuskers have won three straight games after a slow start to the season.
“We’ve won a few games in a row but I tell the girls that the season’s still early,” Hattem said. “We’re only halfway through. We have 10 more games to just get better and that’s where the emphasis is right now. They’re coming along. We’ve just got to keep plugging away.”
The Tuskers were scheduled to host Ossining on Wednesday, Jan. 22. They then welcome Nanuet for a 5 p.m. game on Friday, Jan. 24, and head to Yorktown for a 9:30 a.m. league contest the next day.