Albertus Magnus cut Pearl River's lead to three points midway through the third quarter of Thursday's Class A girls basketball semifinal game at the Westchester County Center.
Then Pearl River senior Christa Scognamiglio draining three three-point shots in less than a minute to help the Pirates hold off the rally on the way to a 53-43 victory over the Falcons.
"We were scoring, but she was coming down and hitting shots," Albertus Magnus Head Coach Pat Buckley said. "It's no surprise. She’s been the player of the year three years in a row. When the spotlight is on, she’s a tough kid. She made big plays."
"She just took over," Pearl River Head Coach Lorraine Moylan said. "She had an awesome game. But by the same token, Missy (Scognamiglio) had some big shots. Everybody was scrapping. Amanda (DeCourcey) is getting her hands on balls. Sully (Kerry Sullivan) is hustling her tail off. It’s a complete team effort there."
Marissa Scognamiglio hit a key put-back to push Pearl River's lead back up to eight points with 1:30 remaining in the contest, then stole the ball right back for the Pirates to help Pearl River (19-2) hold on to the victory. She finished with 11 points, making three 3-pointers.
"She's big time," Moylan said. "She came up with big moments in the game. It keeps on happening more and more now. Aside from the big shot and the steal, she did a great job on (Albertus guard Kelly) Guarino."
"It's fun playing with my sister," Christa Scognamiglio said. "She comes up clutch a lot of times when things aren't going well for us.
"(That offensive rebound) was huge. She is really good at getting to the boards. She's quick."
No. 1 seed Pearl River will now play No. 2 Tappan Zee (19-2) for the section championship 5 p.m. Sunday at the County Center. The Pirates lost in the title game a year ago.
"It's a really great feeling," Christa Scognamiglio said. "It's my last year, so it's exciting to (make the finals), especially against one of our rivals."
"It’s awesome," Marissa Scognamiglio said. "You can’t describe this feeling. If we win again Sunday night, it’s even better. All I want is a gold ball. It’s all our entire team wants."
Albertus Magnus (16-5) looked like it might keep that from happening, battling back time and again against a Pearl River team that had beaten the Falcons twice during the regular season.
"They made the shots when they needed to," Buckley said. "I thought we had a good game plan put together. We didn’t quit. That’s what you want. Scoring more than 16 in the first half would have helped."
That game plan involved playing multiple defenses, including much more zone after using only man-to-man in the first two meetings.
"We worked on a couple of different looks for them," Buckley said. "They were trying to figure out what we were doing. While they were trying to do that, we needed to score baskets and we didn’t do that. We missed some easy looks. It would have been nice to get a lead there while they were figuring it out. It’s a tribute to what they do."
The Pirates struggled offensively much of the game, but still managed to take a 26-16 lead into halftime.
"They were playing different defenses on us, changing it up," Scognamiglio said. "That was frustrating us.
"It gets really annoying. They are a great team. To be able to switch defenses on us was really impressive. We had to adjust. It was definitely pushing us out of our flow."
Sophomore Ryan Doherty gave Albertus Magnus a spark early in the third quarter, scoring two quick baskets and setting up Guarino for a three-pointer to pull the Falcons within three at 28-25 with 5:39 remaining in the period. Then Scognamiglio responded with her run of three-pointers to help the Pirates regain control.
Christa Scognamiglio said she was reminded of Pearl River's 62-54 loss to Peekskill in the Class A championship game, in which the Pirates let a 16-point lead slip away.
"I know the feeling when a team is coming back, especially from the loss to Peekskill," Scognamiglio said. "We didn't want that to happen again. I guess when a team starts coming back, I feel like I should have the ball in my hands."
Doherty finished with 11 points. Parahus led Albertus Magnus with 14 and Guarino had 12. The Scognamiglio sisters focused their defensive efforts on slowing down Parahus and Guarino, the Falcons' top two scorers.
"Christa was on Maeve and she did a great job keeping her out of the paint and making her take jump shots," Marissa Scognamiglio said. "I was on Kelly Guarino, who is a great ball-handler and can shoot the three. I was out of the press and face guarding here, denying her the ball."
Three Pirates scored in double figures, with DeCourcey adding 10 points, including some late free throws.