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After more than a year of stewing over an 85-43 defeat at the hands of Irvington in the 2010 Queens of the Court Classic, Mt. Vernon finally got its chance for revenge Thursday night in the final of the Slam Dunk Challenge at the Westchester County Center.
Unfortunately for the Knights, they fared no better this go-round and were defeated soundly by a score of 77-52 as Irvington defended its Slam Dunk title in convincing fashion.
Irvington junior guard Brittni Lai (25 points, eight assists, tournament MVP) was unstoppable and rattled off 15 points in the first quarter alone.
Lai hit three 3-pointers in the first quarter and then ripped through the Mt. Vernon defense with powerful drives down the middle of the key. The Bulldogs game plan was run fast and run often against the size of Mt. Vernon.
“That was one of the things coach Maher said in the locker room,” Lai said. “Just run the ball up as fast as you can and if it’s not there, just run the offense.”
Teammate Lexi Martins poured in 23 points of her own despite being guarded by 6-foot-4 Mt. Vernon center Lubirdia Gordon.
“We set goals for ourselves at the beginning and this is definitely a big one,” Martins said of the repeat. “As opposed to just looking at sectionals and beyond that, it’s kind of just a staircase of goals that we’re climbing.”
Mt. Vernon got exceptional play from Gordon (20 points, 19 rebounds) but the defense was inconsistent and had trouble getting back in time to stop the relentless fast-break of the Bulldogs.
The Knights shot just 30-percent from the floor for the game and 14-percent from 3-point range. Irvington racked up nine steals and three blocks in a coordinated team effort.
Lai and Martins got into foul trouble early and had three each at halftime. However, Mt. Vernon wasn’t able to take advantage as the two settled down admirably and neither one picked up a foul for the remainder of the game.
Alyssa Di Campli contributed 10 points and six rebounds, and did a strong job passing the ball to get Martins and Lai in a position to score.
The Irvington game plan was near flawless as they took away the Mt. Vernon height advantage by utilizing outside shooting and a brisk fast break offense. Even Martins, who is normally stationed under the basket, stepped outside and drained two of four three-point attempts.
“We wanted to run the ball because we knew that we could beat them down the court,” Irvington coach Gina Maher said. “But we also were setting picks out high on our motion and had Lexi (Martins)going out high so Brittni could kick it out if the inside shot wasn’t there.”
It was a complete victory for Class B Irvington and a bit of a statement game as they stayed undefeated and easily handled the Class AA Mt. Vernon squad. It’s just another stepping stone as the Bulldogs try to capture a third straight state title.