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February Madness in Section 1 basketball is about to begin.
Ossining, Pearl River, Irvington and Hamilton earned No. 1 seeds in their respective classes when the Section 1 girls basketball tournament brackets were officially released on Monday afternoon.
The tournament begins on Wednesday with outbracket games. The opening round is Friday, and quarterfinals are set in Class AA for Tuesday, Feb. 21 and in Class A and B on Wednesday, Feb. 22. The semifinals and finals — “Championship Week” — will be Feb. 27-March 4 at the Westchester County Center.
Before we dive into this year’s tournament, here’s last year’s champions:
2011 Tournament Review
AA: Ossining over Mount Vernon
A: Peekskill over Pearl River
B: Irvington over Briarcliff
C: Haldane over Hamilton
Now, MSG Varsity basketball expert Kevin Devaney Jr. breaks down the Classes AA, A and B brackets:
Section 1 Tournament Preview
Favorite: Ossining. The Pride ran the table this season, going 18-0 and working themselves up to No. 4 in the latest MSG Varsity Tri-State Top 20 poll. Ossining is aiming for its second straight Section 1 title. But with the most dynamic player in the region in Saniya Chong and a wealth of talent around her, Ossining is aiming for much more than that.
Challengers: The Dutchess Trio – Lourdes, Arlington, John Jay-EF. These three teams took turns knocking each other off this season. Lourdes beat John Jay twice. Arlington beat Lourdes twice. And Arlington and John Jay split. Whether they can contend with Ossining for four quarters is another question.
Team you don’t want to face: Ursuline. Remember, it’s still Ursuline. The Koalas have a mediocre record (10-8) and seed (No. 12). But they played a daunting schedule and improved every game. Considering they’ve posted wins over Mount Vernon and White Plains, and took Pearl River to overtime, this team can play with anyone on any given day.
Darkhorse: Carmel. The Rams had won nine in a row before falling to Somers in their season finale, which might have refocused this group. Clarkstown South, and if they advance, Arlington, could have their hands full with Carmel.
Top opening-round game: No. 11 New Rochelle at No. 6 White Plains. Rivalries always add another element to postseason games. White Plains was on a six game winning streak before losing to New Rochelle last week. The Huguenots have struggled with consistency all season. They should rise to this occasion.
Best chance of an upset: No. 10 Carmel over No. 7 Clarkstown South. Outside of Ossining, the Vikings are the hottest team entering the Class AA tournament. But Carmel’s duo of Nicole Oliver and Sabrina Diaz may be too much for South to handle
Best potential quarterfinal: No. 5 Mount Vernon at No. 4 John Jay-EF. John Jay is itching for a shot at playing at the County Center but faces a Mount Vernon team that always seems to find their way there. How Jay defending Mount Vernon center Lubirdia Gordon will dictate the outcome.
Ten players to watch: Saniya Chong (Sr., G), Ossining; Sophia Roman (Sr., G), White Plains; Sabrina Diaz (Sr., G), Carmel; Sade King (Sr., G), Mount Vernon; Lubirdia Gordon (Jr., F), Mount Vernon; Jalay Knowles (Fr., C), Ossining; Jocelyn Strack (Jr., F), Arlington; Brittney Gullo (Sr., F), John Jay-EF; Arianna Apolstolopoulos (Sr., PG), Ursuline.
Five names to learn: Paige Decker (Soph., G), Lourdes; Destini Walker (Fr., G), Ossining; Allison Lombardi (Sr., G), Fox Lane; Shelby Zucker (Sr., G), Scarsdale; Jackie Brett (Sr., G), Horace Greeley.
Outbracket: Fox Lane over Mamaroneck; Mahopac over Clarkstown North
Opening round: Ossining over Mahopac; North Rockland over Greeley; Mount Vernon over Ursuline; John Jay-EF over Scarsdale; White Plains over New Rochelle; Lourdes over Suffern; Carmel over Clarktown South; Arlington over Fox Lane.
Quarterfinal: Ossining over North Rockland; Mount Vernon over John Jay-EF; Lourdes over White Plains; Arlington over Clarkstown South.
Semifinals: Ossining over Mount Vernon; Lourdes over Arlington
Championship: Ossining over Lourdes
MVP pick: Saniya Chong.
Favorite: Pearl River. With just one conference loss, the Pirates enter the postseason a hair ahead of Tappan Zee as the favorite to win a title. TZ and Pearl River split their regular season meetings. Consindering the Pirates are a veteran team that came so close to winning it all last season, you’d have to think this is the Pirates’ time to claim the Gold Ball again.
Challengers: Albertus Magnus and Tappan Zee. Two teams that will challenge Pearl River in very different ways. The Dutchies have so much size while Albertus relies more on its guard play. Pearl River had no issue with Albertus in the regular season. If any team in this bracket is going to beat Pearl River, it may have to be Tappan Zee.
Team you don’t want to face: Peekskill. Nobody expected much from the defending state champs after they graduated four starters and opened the season 2-4. But they’re 10-1 since then, losing only to powerhouse Ossining. None of those games were really all that close either. Peekskill has its confidence back, which is dangerous.
Darkhorse: Byram Hills. The seventh-seeded Bobcats have a star in Beatriz Williams, who can carry the offense for long stretches. If Byram gets past the opening round, they’ll likely go face a Tappan Zee they lost handily to in December. The pressure is all on the Dutchies.
Top opening-round game: The potential of a Rye-Byram Hills matchup in the opening round is very intriguing. But both quarterfinal games at No. 3 Ardsley and No. 6 Sleepy Hollow will be looked at closely. Those teams are both very underrated heading into the postseason and many will be forecasting upsets.
Best chance of an upset: No. 11 Beacon over No. 6 Sleepy Hollow. With that said, it’s easy to like a Beacon victory given what a difficult schedule the Bulldogs have faced this season. The Bulldogs might be slightly more prepared for the big stage.
Best potential quarterfinal: No. 8 Peekskill at No. 1 Pearl River. Obviously, these teams have a history. Peekskill beat Pearl River at the County Center the last two seasons, including last year’s final in a massive comeback effort en route to a state title. The Pirates haven’t forgotten any of that and are looking for revenge.
Ten players to watch: Christa Scognamiglio (Sr., G/F), Pearl River; Asia Jackson (Sr., G), Peekskill; Marisa Gardineer (Sr., F), Somers; Beatriz Williams (Sr., G), Byram Hills; Allison Cook (Sr., G), Pearl River; Regina Argenzio (Sr., PG), Tappan Zee; Maeve Parahus (Jr., F), Albertus Magnus; Kristen McLaughlin (Soph., F), Tappan Zee; Toni Pilla (Jr., G), Ardsley; Raegan Knox (Sr., G), John Jay-CR.
Five names to learn: Jamie Bucci (Sr., G), Sleepy Hollow; Davona Paul (Sr., F), Tappan Zee; Talah Hughes (Soph., G), Beacon; Meaghan Lynch (Sr., G), Hen Hud; Amanda Smith (Jr., G), Saunders.
Outbracket: Nyack over Pelham; Poughkeepsie over Eastchester; Harrison over Saunders; Brewster over Yonkers; Hen Hud over Nanuet; Beacon over Panas; Rye over Lakeland
Opening round: Pearl River over Nyack; Peekskill over John Jay-CR; Albertus over Brewster; Somers over Hen Hud; Beacon over Sleepy Hollow; Ardsley over Harrison; Byram Hills over Rye; Tappan Zee over Poughkeepsie.
Quarterfinal: Pearl River over Peekskill; Albertus Magnus over Somers; Ardsley over Beacon; Tappan Zee over Byram Hills.
Semifinals: Pearl River over Albertus Magnus; Tappan Zee over Ardsley.
Championship: Tappan Zee over Pearl River
MVP pick: Regina Argenzio
Favorite: Irvington. Nobody is picking against the two-time defending state champs. They have the three best players in the conference, led by Amherst-bound Marley Giddins. They’ve posted convincing wins over just about all the top competitors, as well.
Challengers: Blind Brook, Kennedy and Dobbs Ferry. These three teams are very interchangeable and it will be a matter of who gets hot at the right time. Kennedy, which faced just two Class B teams all season (Putnam Valley and Pawling), might be the best of the three but will have to face Irvington in the semifinals if they advance.
Darkhorse: Briarcliff. While the Bears are 11-7 overall, they’re actually 7-1 against Class B competition this season, losing only to Blind Brook back mid-December. This inexperienced group has logged plenty of minutes since then. Don’t be shocked if they the Bears up at the County Center or even playing for a title.
Top opening-round game: No. 10 Westlake at No. 7 Croton-Harmon. Playing in the same league, Westlake and Croton split their regular season matchups. Croton, which is having one of its best seasons in school history, will be amped for the first home playoff game in a very long time.
Best chance of an upset: There really isn’t one in this bracket. But if you had to choose, No. 9 Valhalla over No. 8 Putnam Valley is a decent choice. They’re very evenly matched while Valhalla has a slight edge in experience.
Best potential quarterfinal: No. 5 Woodlands at No. 4 Kennedy. This is a matchup for Woodlands’ star power against Kennedy’s depth and balance. Imani Tilford and Shanice Perry are a dynamic tandem. It will be interesting to see how Kennedy slows them down with a spot at the County Center on the line.
Five players to watch: Lexi Martins (Jr., F), Irvington; Brittni Lai (Jr., PG), Irvington; Marley Giddins (Sr., F), Irvington; Imani Tilford (Soph., G), Woodlands; Ali Silfen (F), Blind Brook.
Five names to learn: Grace Mulligan (Sr., G/F), Croton-Harmon; Carey Berry (Sr., G), Putnam Valley; Brianna Celaj (Jr., G), Briarcliff; Shanice Perry (Jr., G/F), Woodlands; Jeana Corradina (Sr., F), Dobbs Ferry.
Opening round: Irvington over Pleasantville; Valhalla over Putnam Valley; Woodlands over Edgemont; Kennedy over Hastings; Dobbs Ferry over North Salem; Briarcliff over Rye Neck; Croton over Westlake; Blind Brook over Bronxville.
Quarterfinal: Irvington over Valhalla; Kennedy over Woodlands; Briarcliff over Dobbs Ferry; Blind Brook over Croton.
Semifinals: Irvington over Kennedy; Blind Brook over Briarcliff
Championship: Irvington over Blind Brook
MVP pick: Lexi Martins, Irvington
Email Kevin Devaney Jr. at email@example.com