Horace Greeley tops Walter Panas
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For the last two seasons, the Horace Greeley girls’ basketball team has been eliminated by Ursuline in the Section 1 Class AA quarterfinals. This year, the Quakers are hoping to take the next step and get to the final four at the Westchester County Center.
Greeley got off on the right foot with a 42-29 win over Walter Panas in the first round of the Carolyn Conroy Memorial Tournament on Thursday at Lakeland High School.
“We stepped up our defense,” Greeley coach John Alkalay said of the second half. “They weren’t able to get easy shots. [Panas] ran a nice motion offense with a lot of screening and moving, which gave us trouble to start. But then we kind of switched off everything which made it harder for them to score and we got a couple turnovers. Once they got behind by 10 they had to press and we got easy shots off of that.”
Greeley (1-0) — which won the tournament last year — faces Clarkstown North in the championship game on Saturday at 6 p.m.
The Quakers held the Panthers to just six points in the fourth quarter.
“Our shots weren’t really falling, so we just focused on defense in the second half and then the offense started to come more,” junior point guard Jackie Brett said.
Greeley featured balanced scoring as Brett, senior forward Issy Berkery and freshman Molly Gonzalez each had 10 points.
Gonzalez, who was playing in her first varsity contest, scored all of her points in the second half. She sank two 3-pointers in the third quarter. Greeley held a 30-23 lead heading into the fourth.
“She’s a key to our team this year,” Brett said of Gonzalez. “She can handle the ball when they double team me, which helps. She can hit the open shot. We play a dribble-drive motion offense and to be able to kick it out to her helps.”
Gonzalez is the first player off the bench for Greeley. She brings flexibility in that she can play point guard, shooting guard and small forward.
The Quakers had opportunities to really put the game away at times, but they struggled to convert under the basket.
“We turned the ball over way too much and missed some easy shots,” Brett said. “We just need to get together our offense and play more as a team. We’re not really in sync right now.”
Panas trailed 22-15 at halftime and hung around for the majority of the game.
“We moved the ball well and the girls played very hard,” said first-year coach Matt Evangelista, who previously coached the Briarcliff boys’ basketball team and won a Section 1 title. “We hit a drought in the third quarter where we struggled getting some shots and when we did get them we just weren’t making them. But we battled and competed. I thought we defended really well.”
Senior Elizabeth Nesi knocked down three 3-pointers and finished with a team-high nine points for the Panthers (0-1). Freshman Samantha Sudol added six points, while junior Rachel Myers chipped in five.
Panas will face Lakeland in the consolation game on Saturday at 2 p.m.
For the Quakers, junior forward Lindsay Hill added five points and sophomore forward Samantha Srinivasan chipped in four.
Brett believes Greeley is capable of getting past the quarterfinal round this season.
“Our goal every season is to get to the County Center,” she said. “We’re a quick team and we can get it done once we get in sync and stop the turnovers. If we really start playing as a team I think we can reach our goal.”
“We’re really just trying to reach our potential as a team,” Alkalay said. “I just hope we can get there.”
Follow Rob DiAntonio on Twitter @MSGV_RJD