Much of the starting lineup from the Pearl River girls basketball team that beat Tappan Zee in the Section 1 Class A championship game in March sat in street clothes behind the team's bench Wednesday.
The top three scorers from that team graduated, but the Pirates haven't slowed down one bit. The small group of alumni saw another example of that in a 59-34 victory over Clarkstown North.
Pearl River is averaging 66 points a game with an average margin of victory of 22.7 with only one returning starter in the lineup, relying on athleticism, depth, defense and a strong backcourt. This version of the Pirates is built to play the pressure defense and up-tempo offense favored by Head Coach Lorraine Moylan. She just wants to see them do it even better as the season progresses.
"We like to run and get up and down. People were sharing the ball nicely," Moylan said after the victory over Clarkstown North. "We were getting on the boards. We just have to get better."
"We have the same mentality," said senior guard Missy Scognamiglio, that lone returning starter. "Get up on the press. Force turnovers. Make the big girls handle the ball. In-your-face defense."
The three guard spots were settled early in preseason, with Amanda DeCourcey stepping into one after being the Pirates' top reserve last season and junior Sam Alicandri taking the other. All three are strong defenders who push the ball up the floor. All three have played point guard.
"I think any time you have guards, it definitely helps," Moylan said. "Sam, Amanda and Missy have been playing together. They play hard. They look for each other and they find each other in good position."
"Missy and Amanda have experience and I played a bit last year," Alicandri said. "I know what they like to do. We just work well together."
Alicandri led a balanced attack in scoring the last two games, scoring 13 points in a 70-40 victory over Scarsdale and 12 against North. She is a threat from three-point range, but the same speed that helped her tie the school record in stolen bases in softball makes her tough to stop in transition on the basketball court.
"Sam is playing much more confidently," Moylan said. "She's playing much better. She always could do it. She's really quick. She can get up and down the floor."
"I have more confidence this year knowing I'm going to be out there more," Alicandri said. "I try to take that out onto the court. I have more confidence in my shot. They will be getting me the ball and they expect me to do something with it."
The Pirates’ speed at guard also makes the pressure defense tough to prepare for.
“Pearl River establishes their defense first. You can practice it, but you can’t imitate them,” Clarkstown North Coach Kerry Sullivan said.
New starting forwards Emma Daly and Jessica Dolan have also contributed, as has a deep, athletic bench. Tougher tests are ahead, including Saturday's home game against Oneonta at 2 p.m.
"3-0 is good," Scognamiglio said. "We have a couple of good games coming up like Oneonta Saturday. They are supposed to be good. Hopefully we can get our fourth win."