RIVERDALE, N.Y. — On Sunday afternoon at the Fieldston School, Hackley sophomore Alexandra Mueller got to live out the ultimate fantasy of every boy or girl who ever laced up a pair of basketball shoes.
Mueller’s baseline jumper as time expired won the NYSAIS C Division title and preserved No. 1 seed Hackley’s undefeated season by vanquishing rival and Poly Prep 35-33. The entire gymnasium held their breath as ball bounced off the rim and seemed to pause in the air before dropping through the net and giving Hackley the win.
“I didn’t think it was going to go in and then it just went in,” Mueller said. “I was running back to play defense and I didn’t realize the whole game was over and then before I knew it everyone was just on top of me.”
The miraculous play started when Hackley inbounded the ball with seven seconds on the clock. Junior Allie Coppola’s shot was blocked but senior captain Nia Yancopoulos made a heads up play as she saved the ball from going out of bounds and tapped it to Mueller who calmly sank the winner.
“I am so proud of Mueller,” said an ecstatic Yancopoulos. “I saw that ball and I was just like I’ve got to get it and I passed it to Mueller and she made that shot and it was incredible. I’m so happy, just so happy.”
Yancopoulos (six points) is a miracle story in her own right. She broke her back in her very first practice her freshman year and missed the next two years while recovering. Now, when most people would just be glad to be healthy, she has had the dream senior season with 23 wins to match the 23 she wears on her jersey.
The Hornets, playing without senior captain and staring guard Tricia Gorman who was out with a knee injury, trailed for the entire game until sophomore Stefanie Frolo’s (seven points) jumper gave them a 33-32 lead with just under a minute to go. Poly tied it from the line with 30 seconds left and set the stage for the dramatic conclusion.
Poly Prep played a wonderful game and the underdog came within one shot of a spectacular run to the title during which they had already defeated the second and third seeds.
Junior Jackie Kennedy led Poly with 14 points and the Blue Devils dominated on the glass but lost some momentum when junior center Anna Lee Westfield left the game in the third quarter after injuring her knee.
It was a fitting ending to a hard-fought Hackley comeback. Both teams are relatively young and this already fierce rivalry will be a little more intense over the next couple of years.
“We’ve played Poly before, they know us and we know them,” Hackley coach Shelagh Amann said. “They struggled and they fought and they never gave up on their defense. Poly is always a big rivalry for us. I look forward to it continuing.”