Avery LaBarbera and the Harrison Huskies have waited an awfully long time for the chance to play a semifinal game at the Westchester County Center. But on Feb. 27, the No. 4 seed Huskies made the most of their opportunity, knocking off top-seeded John Jay at Westchester’s most famous arena, and earning the chance to take on league rival Rye for the Class A title on Saturday.
The game was Harrison’s first-ever postseason contest at the County Center, and for the senior LaBarbera, the 49-41 victory was as sweet as it was well deserved.
“I have no words, this is what I’ve dreamt of since I was a little girl,” LaBarbera said. “To be able to play on this court, compete on this court and win on this court means so much to me.”
LaBarbera was stellar in her semifinal debut, racking up 20 points to lead the No. 4 Huskies on a night in which John Jay (19-5) gave Harrison all it could handle. The Huskies led 21-14 at halftime and saw that lead grow to as much as 10 points in the second half, but the Indians, led by junior Ana Dorta (20 points) refused to give in, cutting the deficit to just four points with under a minute to play.
Timely defensive stops and some good Huskies’ foul shooting helped put an end to John Jay’s comeback hopes, however.
“We’ve been through it, we’ve been tested and they answer the bell every single time,” head coach Louis Kail said. “We talk about effort and enthusiasm before every game and those girls showed it today.”
Harrison got an offensive boost from junior forward Emily Hassett, who finished with 10 points, and also relied on the toughness of Victoria Lendino and Gina Nuvoloni, whom Kail credits with helping to keep the team’s defensive intensity up even when the shots weren’t falling.
“When you talk about Victoria and Gina, and the effort they put in, it was absolutely fantastic,” Kail said. “They do the dirty work that may not always show up in the stat sheet, but I couldn’t be more proud of them.”
With the win, the Huskies earn a shot at the Class A title, which will be decided when Harrison squares off with longtime foe Rye on March 3 at Pace University. The No. 3 Garnets needed a buzzer-beater from Amanda Latkany to lift them past reigning champ Somers in the semifinal round, and should be geared up for a Harrison team that beat them twice during the regular season.
“I watched a lot of their [semifinal] game and that’s who they are; they’re fighters,” Kail said. “Dennis [Hurlie] is an unbelievable coach and I couldn’t be happier to see someone that I’ve looked up to since I came into the league on the other side, so we’re going to have some fun on Saturday.”
LaBarbera added, “It could be special on paper because of the Harrison, Rye rivalry. But for us, it’s just next play, next game.”