Rye may have won its last Section I title just two years ago, but last Saturday, a new group of Garnets rose to the challenge to add another Gold Ball to the school’s trophy case. Taking on league rival Harrison for the Class A crown at Pace University, the young Garnets—led by an impressive duo of underclassmen—topped the Huskies in a 45-42 barnburner, cementing their spot as one of the top programs in the Westchester basketball landscape.
Although Harrison twice topped Rye in the regular season, it was the Garnets who had the last laugh on Saturday, overcoming an early deficit to put an end to the Huskies’ first-ever run to a Section I final.
“This has been a dream of mine ever since I can remember,” said Rye sophomore Teaghan Flaherty, who scored 17 points en route to being named the Class A tournament MVP. “It’s what every single team in Section I is fighting for; it’s just unbelievable.”
Although the Huskies started quickly, jumping out to a 10-5 first quarter lead, the Garnets made a late run with under a minute remaining in the second quarter as freshman Amanda Latkany knotted the score at 16 with a layup
Although the two teams traded leads over the final 16 minutes of regulation, Latkany—who was named to the All-Tournament team—said that the first-half surge gave the Garnets some much needed confidence heading into the home stretch.
“We ended the half so well and we felt like we had the momentum,” Latkany said. “Once we started that second half, we knew we were going to win.”
Rye’s success stemmed, in large part, from the defensive pressure the Garnets put on Harrison’s standard point guard, Avery LaBarbera. In two regular season games, the Canisius-bound senior torched Rye for a combined 44 points, but on Saturday, both Latkany and senior Margaret Mitchell were able to minimize her impact on the offensive end for much of the game. LaBarbera was held to just five points in the first half, but finished with 15 after a late-game flurry.
“What we’re afraid of is if you get a live turnover and you get [LaBarbera] loose in transition, she doesn’t miss much and we definitely wanted to keep her off the line, which we didn’t [do] in the first game,” Rye coach Dennis Hurlie said. “Margaret and Amanda, they covered her the most today, but we had a lot of help, and it was really a team effort, defensively.”
With the win, the Garnets moved on to the state regional semifinals, where they lost to Section IV Seton Catholic at Union Endicott High School on March 6. But regardless of how the Garnets fared in the state tourney, the stage should be set for Rye to challenge for a Section I title for the next few years.
“They’re capable of big things, but what we’ll talk about when this is over is not talking about how it’s our turn next year, because it doesn’t happen that way,” Hurlie said. “But I’m confident that these young girls, they love basketball, so they’re going to spend a lot of time in the offseason getting better, and we’re going to be fine.”