by Tom Pedulla
When members of the Irvington girls’ basketball team glanced at the scoreboard for the final time this season, they could not help but feel the sting of disappointment. They had fallen short against Seton Catholic, 86-67, in the Class B state championship game at Hudson Valley Community College for only their second defeat of the season.
The pain associated with the finale, though, was short-lived. Coach Gina Maher quickly reminded them of how marvelous their journey together had been, producing 25 victories and memories that will last a lifetime.
“I feel great about the season,” Maher said. “I think the girls really pulled together and did a wonderful, wonderful job. They accomplished great things. I’m not sure people thought we would be 25-2.”
Kelly Degnan, a junior forward, drew consolation from knowing the Bulldogs left everything on the floor.
“Obviously, it would have been great to win the state title,” she said. “But that last game we played our hearts out. We definitely gave it all we had.”
It is worth noting that Seton Catholic twice defeated Class AA Elmira and also owned a victory against AA North Rockland. The Section 4 representatives closed 26-1.
Irvington was led throughout the season by Lindsay Halpin, a superb point guard and three-time Most Valuable Player of the Section 1 Tournament. Halpin and Olivia Valdes, a junior who emerged as an offensive force during the playoffs, were named to the Class B All-Tournament team while Heather Hall, a junior forward, was honored for her sportsmanship. Halpin and Valdes paced the scoring in the title game with 24 and 22 points, respectively.
Halpin established a selfless tone and raised the level of everyone around her. While her graduation will leave a tremendous void, the future is still very bright because she was the only senior on the team. Maher anticipates that it will take several players to compensate for Halpin’s loss.
“The other guards will step up and they’ll be different, but I’m sure they’ll try to do in their own way what Lindsay got done,” Maher said.
She indicated that point guard may be a “shared position” next year.
“I’ve done that in the past where we have a three-guard offense, and whoever has the ball runs it,” Maher said. “They will all contribute, I know that.”
Degnan said the returning players are already looking forward to 2018.
“We have a lot of work to do,” she said. “At least five of us are playing Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) basketball, so we can only get better. Everyone just has to step up.”
Maher will emphasize the need to set small goals without looking too far ahead. At the same time, she knows how much the deep postseason run should help the underclassmen.
“It’s great,” she said. “They have the experience of being where they’ve been and they know what it took to get there.”
Another run at the state title may lie ahead.
“I don’t want to say ‘Yes, we will win the state title,’ “ said Maher. “But I can say, ‘Yes, if we work really, really hard, we have as good a chance to win the state title as anybody.”