SHRUB OAK, N.Y.— Lakeland’s girls basketball squad was primed to make the Section 1 Class A final four at the Westchester County Center but first it had a quarterfinal game against visiting No. 5 Eastchester on Feb. 23 to win.
The Hornets were ready from the outset but the high-percentage shooting and precise passing of the Eagles was simply too much for the host to overcome.
Led by Cassidy Mitchell, who scored a game-high 28 points, including her 1,000th career point with 32 seconds remaining, Eastchester beat No. 4 Lakeland 70-56 to clinch a berth at the County Center.
Eastchester jumped out to a 15-10 first-quarter lead before the Hornets scored the first seven points of the second quarter to go up by two.
“We were just being aggressive, going to the basket and not settling for outside shots,” Lakeland coach Miranda Lustig said. “We just brought a little bit more energy on defense too.”
Eastchester got hot toward the end of the quarter, as it outscored Lakeland 17-4 to take a 32-21 lead into halftime.
The Eagles continued their scorching-hot shooting to begin the second half when they connected on back-to-back 3-pointers to go up by 17, prompting Lustig to call a timeout with 6:58 remaining in the third quarter.
“I would honestly love to know what their shooting percentage was because it was like they didn’t miss,” Lustig said. “Outside shots, even like short baby jumpers, everything was falling for them. Hats off to them, because they shot lights out tonight.”
After that, senior captain Colleen Walsh (17 points, 11 rebounds) answered the call for Lakeland, as she scored eight of the Hornets’ next 10 points, including two treys, cutting Eastchester’s lead to under double digits, 40-31.
“Colleen only had two points at halftime, so I told her, ‘If you want to win this game or get a chance to win this game, you need to start stepping up,’” Lustig said. “Of course, she does. She brings the energy, she hit two threes and then she was driving to the basket. Four times in a row she had the lane, she took the lane, kept scoring. That’s Colleen for you, she’s a fighter.”
Eastchester answered right back, going on an 11-4 run that put it up 51-35 early in the fourth quarter. The closest the Hornets got the rest of the way was eight points.
Kelsey Walsh (17 points), Rieley Walsh (7 points), Alexa Cole (7 points), Jess Ascencao (6 points, 10 rebounds) and Krista Verrino (2 points) contributed to the Hornets’ scoring.
Sarah Carroll, Claire McKenna, Val Potenza, Rose DeMuro, Brianna Monte and Kayla Bugeya also were part of Lakeland’s turnaround season, going from 5-16 to 14-8 this winter.
“Our original goals were to get to the first round of playoffs,” Lustig said. “Obviously, we’re thinking get to the outbracket and win the outbracket. But the fact we were the fourth seed, won that first round and we had two home games, they went above and beyond what we expected of them. It just goes to show that all the hard work they put in—that’s what they deserve. They earned it and I couldn’t be prouder.”