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ORANGEBURG, N.Y. – The traditional "sixth man" in basketball is someone who comes off the bench to give the team a lift. A great sixth man usually plays starter-type minutes and finds a way to contribute in a big way. On Wednesday evening at Tappan Zee, senior Sarah Wenke proved how valuable a reserve she really is.
Wenke led Tappan Zee with 12 points and hit a big momentum-changing 3-pointer in the third quarter to give second-seeded Tappan Zee a 56-52 victory over No. 7 Byram Hills in a Section 1 Class A quarterfinal. The victory sends the Lady Dutchmen to the Westchester County Center to face No. 6 Sleepy Hollow in the Class A semifinal.
“This is such a great feel, we haven’t been the County Center in a really long time, if ever,” Wenke said. “We’ve worked so hard for this. We really want that Gold Ball.”
Byram Hills looked like they were headed to the County Center midway through the third quarter when senior Beatriz Williams scored to give the Bobcats a 41-36 lead. Williams had 23 points with four minutes left in the third quarter and looked unstoppable. She finished with 25.
The Lady Dutchmen rolled out an 11-2 run to finish the third quarter including Wenke’s 3-pointer to give Tappan Zee a 43-41 lead that it never relinquished.
“It felt great to hit that shot, it swung the momentum for us,” Wenke said. “It helped lead us to victory.”
Fellow senior Regina Argenzio knew the shot was big for Tappan Zee.
“I knew we had it after that, I slapped the floor like 'let’s go,'” Argenzio said. “All the momentum was on our side.”
Argenzio, the team’s floor general, scored eight points and handed out five assists in a balanced effort. Forwards Val DiMuro and Devona Paul combined to for 18 points and 21 rebounds. Erica Richards added nine points, three steals, and three assists.
“We’ve wanted this for a long time, since we were freshmen and Val and I were on the varsity,” Argenzio said. “Our team goals always come first and that’s how we played today.”
Like the 20-0 boys team, the Tappan Zee girls predicate themselves on defense. The defensive effort in the second half was a main factor in the Lady Dutchmen victory, especially in trying to slow down Williams.
“Beatriz (Williams) is a great player, she’s so athletic and it’s tough to slow her down,” Argenzio said. “Kristen McLaughlin has been stopping some great players all year though, and the help she had from Erica Richards worked well for us in the second half.”
For Wenke, all the hard work paid its dividends.
“Everything we’ve done for all these years has finally paid off,” Wenke said. “It’s been quite a journey and it’s about to get better.”
Email John Malone at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @MSGV_Malone