There was a point in the second quarter when Irvington’s star seniors were absolutely worried about ending their illustrious careers with a loss in the New York State Class B Federation championship. The Bulldogs led the Catholic state champions, Cardinal O’Hara of Buffalo, by just two points and Lexi Martins was on the bench frustrated with three fouls.
Brittni Lai, the team’s glue, settled the team down before half and Martins took over in the third quarter to run away with the third Federation title in four years while Irvington secured a 65-48 victory.
“It was our last game, we just had to keep going, we were doing well,” Lai said of the trouble in the second quarter. “We couldn’t control (the calls), we just had to play our game. We weren’t going to go out on a loss.”
The win was the last in the careers of Martins, Lai, and fellow seniors Ryan McMahon, and Alyssa DiCampli. Irvington won 105 games in four seasons as New York State Class B champions and Section 1 champions.
“It’s really sad to be done, after states we knew we had another game to fall back on, but it’s sad and happy,” Martins said. “Now that it’s over, I really don’t know how to feel.”
Cardinal O’Hara, playing without its best player, came to play early on. The Hawks were tough on the glass and active on defense. Leah McDonell led O’Hara with 13 points, and Kelsey McCarthy added 12 points and 11 rebounds, but it wasn’t going to end that way for Irvington.
Martins scored 10 of her game-high 22 points in the third quarter and finished with 18 rebounds in just 24 minutes. Lai added 15 points, eight assists, and six steals to cap her career. Lauren Chafizadeh and McMahon each added 10 points as the Bulldogs outscored the Hawks 23-13 in the quarter to go up by 18 points and put the game away.
“We were up by eight after the second quarter but I didn’t think we were playing well,” Coach Gina Maher said. “This team plays really good team ball and we weren’t doing that and I didn’t want us to win or lose like that, so I’m glad we got back to our style of basketball in the third quarter.”
In the fourth quarter, Irvington subbed out its starters one by one to give each player a chance for an ovation and teary-eyed hugs with coaches and teammates. It was a fitting end for a group that’s only lost six games in four seasons.
“This weekend was a lot of cherishing the fact that this was our last trip together,” Martins said. “Knowing that it was our last bus trip, our last team dinner and hanging out in the hotel rooms, it meant so much for the seniors.”
Lai who moved to Irvington before her sophomore season heads off to Marist to continue her career. Martins will take her skills to Lehigh.
“I think it’s going to sink in when we don’t have practice on Monday. It’s been incredible these last three years and I’m sad it’s over,” Lai said. “I’m going off to college now but there’s nothing like high school basketball.”
Email John Malone at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @MSGV_Malone