RYE, N.Y. – With a five-point lead with just under a minute to play, it appeared Somers was heading for the Westchester County Center for the fourth straight year.
But the tables quickly turned, and top-seeded Rye pulled off a 61-59 win at the buzzer over the eighth-seeded Tuskers in the Section 1 Class A quarterfinals on Wednesday, Feb. 26.
Jordan May converted a three-point play then Dani DiCintio made 1 of 2 free throws to put visiting Somers up 59-54 with 56.6 seconds left.
Everything went Rye’s way from that point on.
Rye star forward Amanda Latkany, who ended Somers’ season at the buzzer two years ago in the semifinals, converted a difficult three-point play to cut the Tuskers’ lead to two points.
On an inbounds play, Somers missed an open layup and a jump ball was called, giving Rye possession. Teaghan Flaherty scored on a floater to tie the game at 59-59 with 14.7 seconds left.
DiCintio drove across half court into a crowd but the Garnets stole the ball at the foul line and quickly passed ahead to Latkany. Latkany heaved a half-court shot and it clanged off the glass, right into the waiting hands of teammate Natasha Meyer, who scored at the buzzer.
“We believed in ourselves, so the five-point lead didn’t surprise us,” DiCintio said. “But the fact that we let it slip away in the last minute for a veteran team was frustrating and disappointing. This will sting for some time.”
The Garnets had handily defeated the Tuskers 54-35 back in December in Somers’ season opener. The rematch, however, was a much different story.
“I was very proud of my teammates as we were prepared and practiced very hard all week,” DiCintio said. “We took our focus onto the court and left everything we had out there. Despite Rye being the No. 1 seed and many people predicting us to lose, the team and I believed in ourselves and we are used to playing at a high standard. So to us it hurt to lose a game we know we could have won.”
Somers trailed 31-26 late in the first half but Pooja Rao hit a three with 30 seconds left then DiCintio banked in a 3-pointer from just inside half court to send the Tuskers into halftime with momentum and a 32-31 lead.
“It was an exciting moment,” DiCintio said. “We entered the locker room hyped but after a minute or so we let it go because we knew the game wasn’t over. Coach (Marc Hattem) even told us that the game wasn’t over and we moved on and let it go.”
The third quarter was much of the same with the teams matching baskets. Rye was up 41-38 midway through the quarter but DiCintio knocked down a three from the left wing and then drove and finished to put them up 43-41. Freshman Ava Giudice drove to the basket and scored with 35 seconds left and Rao hit a foul-line jumper with four ticks on the clock to give Somers a 47-43 lead after three quarters.
Rye led 52-49 with five minutes remaining. Giudice was fouled on a three with 3:21 to go and made 2 of 3 from the line to cut the deficit to a point. Giudice then found Amy Lasher to give Somers a 53-52 lead with three minutes left.
Latkany answered for the Garnets but a DiCintio runner had Somers leading again, 55-54, with 1:44 remaining.
DiCintio and May paced Somers with 20 and 16 points, respectively. Giudice added 12 points while Rao had 9 points for Somers, which concluded the season with a 14-8 record.
The Roberts Wesleyan-bound DiCintio, a four-year starter who surpassed 1,000-career points this season, played her final game for the Tuskers. Other key players like May, Rao and Emily Arena will also graduate.
“I will miss playing with the girls I grew up with since the third grade,” DiCintio said. “I’ll miss the underclassmen and our bonding events. And I will miss the high level of competition our program has continued to display throughout my four years of high school, including our County Center runs, Slam Dunk tournament and overnight trips. I’ll miss the relationship I built with my coach, playing for him all four of my high school years.”