BARDONIA – Of course the biggest win of the season was sealed with a deflection.
Dana Phelan got a hand on the inbounds pass with 6.8 seconds to play in a one-possession game, creating one last turnover. Tappan Zee had Albertus Magnus on lockdown in the second half Wednesday, earning a 48-43 comeback win in the championship game of the Richard McNichol Christmas Tournament.
The Falcons had one field goal in the last 12-plus minutes.
“We really believe it starts with defense,” Dutchmen forward Arian Kupi said. “Good defense leads to offense, so when we can get those stops it helps us get things going and score points.
Tappan Zee had to erase a 38-27 deficit in order to stay undefeated.
Stringing baskets together was not easy for the Dutchmen, either, until they extended the defense early in the second half and put intense pressure on the ball.
“I feel like there was a lot of back and forth, back and forth in the first half,” Tappan Zee forward Kelli Linehan said. “Coach told us in the second half we needed to play more settled defense. That’s our game. That’s what we do best. Once we picked it up on defense, the offense came along with it. Even though we were down 11, we never gave up.”
Except for a stretch in the second quarter, Tappan Zee had a difficult time running a settled offense and was shut out in the second half until Kupi ignited a run with three baskets in the paint.
Linehan got the Dutchmen within five, but Allie Falesto ended the third quarter with a 3. It was the last Albertus field goal of the game.
Tappan Zee scrambled the game defensively from there, knotting the score on a Phelan layup with 3:41 to play. When the Dutchmen needed a shot to fall down the stretch, the rim cooperated.
"And that definitely helped us a lot," Linehan said. "In the first half, our shots were not falling at all. We were trying but nothing was going in. Getting those to fall relaxed us a little bit."
Falcons center Karly Fischer was a force in the first half, but had limited touches and only managed two points after the intermission. A free throw by Linehan with 1:54 to go gave Tappan Zee a lead and it was a 46-43 edge when Kupi fed Kathryn Staker for a bucket.
"We just weren’t able to run anything," Magnus coach Pat Buckley said of the stretch run. "We have to get the ball to Karly more. She’s got to have more touches and that’s on me. It’s frustrating to have a lead and lose it. We know who we are right now and we have to get better. We’ll be hopefully ready for Februarty with the schedule we’re playing."
Player of the game
There's a reason why Linehan was named tournament MVP. She finished with 13 points, 10 rebounds, three assists and three blocks.
By the numbers
Tappan Zee (7-0): Kupi finished with 12 points and 15 rebounds and was named all-tournament. ... Staker came off the bench with eight points and seven rebounds. ... Phelan had six points and five rebounds. ... Kristen Phelan had four points in the fourth quarter and three steals. She also led the defensive charge, earning all-tournament honors.
Albertus Magnus (4-3): Falesto was the one dependable scoring option, finishing with 20 points and earning a spot on the all-tournament team. ... Fischer had nine points, 13 rebounds four blocks and four assists. ... Sierra Linnin had 12 points and was named all-tournament
"I feel like we've had a bunch of good matchups at the beginning of the season," Linehan said. "We haven’t had an easy game yet. Coming in, one of our goals was obviously to go undefeated. It’s been hard, so I’m not going to say I expected this kind of a start, but I’m not surprised at how well we’ve been playing together."
Mike Dougherty covers boys soccer, boys lacrosse, girls basketball and golf for The Journal News/lohud.com. He can be reached at email@example.com, or on Twitter @hoopsmbd, @lohudlacrosse, @lohudhoopsmbd and @lohudgolf.
This article originally appeared on Rockland/Westchester Journal News: Tappan Zee clamps down on defense, rallies to win tournament title