By MIKE SMITH
Tuckahoe’s bounce-back season came to an end on Feb. 25 when a tough second quarter against third-seeded Keio came back to haunt the Tigers, dooming them to a semifinal round exit at the County Center.
Despite the 42-30 loss, the Tigers have plenty to be proud of in a season that saw them reestablish themselves as one of Class C’s top teams.
After keeping the Unicorns close in the first quarter, the Tigers found themselves heading into the second down 10-7. But Tuckahoe went ice-cold from the floor as Keio was able go on a 10-0 run before the Tigers could find their next bucket at the two minute mark. When the whistle sounded to end the half, the Tigers found themselves facing a 25-9 deficit.
“The second quarter it just kind of got away from us,” Tuckahoe coach John Kolkowski said. “We just wound up putting ourselves in a hole so big we couldn’t get out of it.”
That’s not to say the Tigers didn’t try.
Tuckahoe came out of the half with new energy, putting on the press to try and harry Keio’s guards into making mistakes. That approach worked well, as Tuckahoe started off the third quarter with two big three-pointers from Cassie McGrath and Brionna Johnson. The Tigers press was also effective as the they began to create some points off turnovers.
Unfortunately, the team simply couldn’t keep up that kind of pressure and Keio kept its lead at double digits the rest of the way.
“We put on the press, tried to work ourselves out of it, but we wound up exerting so much effort early that there wasn’t much we could do,” Kolkowski said. “The girls have never played here, on this big court, and you don’t know what type of shape you need to be in until you’ve played here.”
Johnson led the Tigers with 12 points and nine rebounds, but Tuckahoe had a hard time stopping Unicorns forward Sae Toyamura, who finished with 14 points, nine assists and six rebounds. Kolkowski, whose team also lost an early season matchup with Keio, said the Unicorns played the same type of basketball game as they did the first time around.
“They didn’t do anything differently out there, they were the better basketball team today,” Kolkowski said. “But I think, if we played them at home, on a smaller court, we might have been able to pack the paint and take away some of their strengths.”
Despite the disappointing end to the year, it’s hard to categorize Tuckahoe’s season as anything other than a rousing success. After going 1-6 in their first seven games, the Tigers went on a 12-game win streak before Tuesday’s loss, finishing the season with a 13-7 record overall. That is a far cry from Kolkowski’s first season at the helm of the program, which saw the Tigers win just one game.
“I’ve had that core group of girls who have been with me from the beginning, from that year that we won that one game,” Kolkowski said. “You can see what happened, they’ve started to learn how to win ball games, they’ve learned what it takes to win. You can see that with the way we won all those games up until today.”