By MIKE SMITH
Rye might not have seemed its old defensive-minded self in the early goings of a Feb. 19 quarterfinal game against Sleepy Hollow, but the Garnets were able to right the ship after some early miscues, erasing a double-digit deficit to outclass the Horsemen the rest of the way, winning 62-37 to punch their ticket to the Class A semifinals at the County Center.
Trailing by 11 in the first few minutes, the Garnets were able to ride a terrific performance from Maddie Eck, who scored nine points in the first quarter and finished with 17, to overcome the slow start and assert their dominance the rest of the way. According to Rye coach Dennis Hurlie, while defense has been the team’s calling card all season long, the Sleepy game was another reminder the Garnets don’t lack the ability to put the ball in the basket.
“I definitely think we’ve gotten better offensively as we’ve gotten more confident in ourselves,” Hurlie said. “Alanna [Morque] and Maddie have really shot the ball better lately and [freshman] Katie Popp has had some big games for us. The best compliment I’ve gotten as a coach is when people say how well we share the ball out there.”
It was Popp who would lead Rye’s scoring, netting 19 points in the win, but senior Rachel Egan was also effective, finishing with 12 points and eight rebounds. Morque rounded-out the scoring with seven points and seven rebounds.
The win over Sleepy secured the third-seeded Garnets a semifinal showdown with a tough Albertus Magnus team on Feb. 26 after press time. According to Hurlie, Magnus’ offensive prowess should be a good test for the stout Garnet defense.
“They’re a tough guard,” he said. “They have four or five girls that can shoot the three, so it always makes it tough when you have to spread the floor out.”
Defensively, Albertus Magnus has employed a wide array of looks, but Hurlie said Rye’s tough regular season schedule should prepare the team for whatever they will see.
“We’ve faced man, we’ve faced zone,” Hurlie said. “We know what they’re going to look like offensively, so the only question is what they’re going to show on defense.”
In the days leading up to the game, Hurlie remarked that the team has been loose–a good sign as they prepare to play on Section I’s biggest stage.
“As a coach, there’s a part of you that wants to keep the kids for a five-hour practice and just go over everything,” he said. “But on Friday, our practice was more like one of those practices we’d have the first week of the season. For us, it’s business as usual.”