By MIKE SMITH
The Rye Garnets might be headed for a high postseason berth, but they didn’t escape last week’s contests without a scare as a game Mamaroneck Tigers squad battled back from an early Rye lead to push the Garnets to the limit on Jan. 25.
Though the Garnets came away with a 46-43 win, the game still served as a reminder that the Garnets will need to stay sharp if they hope to continue their winning ways in the playoffs.
In the early goings of the contest, it seemed as though Rye’s up-tempo style would be too tough for the Tigers to figure out as the Garnets converted turnovers into fast break points to jump out to a double-digit lead in the first quarter. But Class AA Mamaroneck was able to right the ship in the second, cutting down on mistakes and slowly grinding away at Rye’s lead.
“My message to the girls was basically just to make it one possession at a time,” Mamaroneck coach David Smith said. “We’re not looking at the bigger picture, just getting the stop, winning the defensive transition and taking advantage, and we were able to do that in the second quarter.”
It would take a stellar defensive effort in the second half–which saw the Garnets surrender just 18-points‑for Rye to reclaim control of the game.
“We were a little disappointed at halftime with how many points we’d given up,” Rye coach Dennis Hurlie said. “We came out and played better; getting those stops, making those deflections. It’s the same old story, our shots weren’t falling but we played well enough defensively to win.”
Defense has been the Garnets’ (11-3) calling card this year as the high-energy Rye squad has been quite effective at forcing opponents to make mistakes. As the sectional playoffs loom in two weeks, Hurlie said the team’s unwavering effort on the defensive side of the ball could be key in making a deep postseason run.
“It gives us confidence and our defense is something our players take a lot of pride in,” Hurlie said. “If we’re executing on offense, then we can be a very dangerous team.”
The Garnets have a few tough matchups before sectionals start, as they will take on talented teams from Rye Country Day and Westlake as well as Section I power Ossining and a tough Section IX foe in Newburgh over the next two weeks.
“These are four good teams,” Hurlie said. “If we can win three of these games, we’ve got a good shot for a top-four seed, which gives us two home games in the playoffs. But that’s something for the coaches to worry about. We just want the players to keep doing what they’ve been doing.”