| by Rick Pezzullo |
One of the battle cries of the Irvington High School girls’ basketball team is “play hard and good things will happen.”
Another is “hold the rope,” which reinforces the need for every player to contribute for the team to be successful.
This year’s Lady Bulldogs’ squad wholeheartedly bought in to both philosophies and added to the unparalleled achievements of the program under the leadership of iconic coach Gina Maher in her 39th season the sidelines.
Posting a remarkable 23-2 record, which included an 18-game winning streak, Irvington captured its seventh straight league title and fifth Section 1 Class B championship in the last six years before running into a sharpshooting 24-1 Hoosick Falls team in the Final Four of the State Class B tournament.
It took an unstoppable 19-0 run in the third quarter by Hoosick Falls, which buried six three-pointers, to send a scrappy Irvington team packing.
“My kids never gave up. I think our team is better than what that score (55-36) showed. My girls were very upset. They were very sad it was over,” Maher said. “Nobody expected us to do what we did. We got to the state Final Four, which is huge. It’s one of the hardest working teams I have ever coached.”
Last year, Irvington was devastated after being bounced in the semifinals at the County Center by Dobbs Ferry. With four seniors in the starting lineup this season, Maher said her team was determined, from the opening tipoff of game one, to have a better ending.
The Lady Bulldogs lost only one regular season game to Eastchester and were ranked as the top team in Class B, which Maher noted was astounding given the target put on Irvington by each opponent.
“The kids knew that and they used it to help motivate team,” she said. “Every team is different. The personality of this year’s team was very different. Nobody wanted to be a superstar. Everyone had a role and everyone assumed a role. It was hard work that won all those games. They played their hearts out. I didn’t score one point. It was all the girls.”
To win its Section 1 Class B crown, Irvington rallied from a three-point halftime deficit to knock off second seeded Ardsley 50-48 in a thrilling contest. Sophomore point guard Lindsay Halpin scored a team-high 17 points and was named the tournament MVP.
Halpin will be one of only six players, and the only starter, from this year’s team to be returning as five seniors will be graduating.
“It takes a village. It takes a team,” Maher said while recognizing Halpin as one of the top point guards dishing the ball in high school girls’ basketball. “A different person stepped up each time. The girls found a way.”
Over the last six seasons, Irvington has amassed a stunning 146-11 record.
Besides Halpin, the starters for Irvington this season were seniors Catherine Hoy, Laura DiCampli, Roxy Trama and Havanna Hall. Coming off the bench with valuable contributions were senior Olivia Rose, juniors Lindsay Chafizadeh and Nina Valdes, sophomore Katie McMahon, and freshmen Kelly Degnan and Zoe Maxwell.