Pearl River looked like it would have an easy time in its home game against North Rockland Monday, jumping out to an 18-point lead after one quarter.
The Raiders battled back with the kind of pressure defense the Pirates usually turn loose on their opponents, cutting the lead to as small as eight points in the fourth quarter.
Pearl River got some key baskets inside and just enough defensive stops to pull away late for a 70-54 victory.
"They would make a run and we responded," Pearl River Head Coach Lorraine Moylan said. "We would make a three or a bucket or get a steal. They came after us."
Pearl River improved its record to 9-2, dropping North Rockland to 10-3 in a battle of two up-tempo teams.
"They are so aggressive. They get after you on both sides, the offensive end and the defensive end," Moylan said. "I'd rather play good teams. You have to rise to the occasion to play a good team like that. They make you pay for any kind of mistakes you make. You learn from your mistakes and it makes you a better basketball team."
Pearl River has been the smaller and quicker team in most games this season, but actually had an advantage inside against North Rockland.
"Even the guards, even I was posting up at some point," senior guard Marissa Scognamiglio said. "We matched up with them in height, which is not what we're used to."
Forward Emma Daly came off the bench to lead a balanced Pearl River offense with 16 points. She and Jess Dolan, who had nine points, were able to get score off offensive rebounds.
"Emma played great," Scognamiglio said. "In the third and fourth quarter, she really pulled down a lot of key rebounds and scored on put-backs that helped us tremendously."
Daly and Dolan were two of six players to score at least nine points. Guards Sam Alicandri and Amanda DeCourcey each contributed 11 and Scognamiglio had nine.
"We don't really have any selfish girls on our team," Scognamiglio said. "Everybody shares the ball. If you have an open look, take advantage of the opportunity. There is always someone there boxing out and getting a rebound, trying to score in different ways."
"Everybody has to chime in and do something," Moylan said. "Get an offensive rebound. Get a defensive rebound. Step up."
North Rockland's top scorer, senior Alexandria Bertolino missed much of the game with foul trouble. North Rockland Coach Kevin Metcalf gambled and left her in with three fouls in the second quarter and Bertolino picked up her fourth.
"I knew we had to weather the first quarter," Metcalf said. "She's our all-section player. She's got the experience. Why keep her on the bench? To her credit, she didn't foul out."
Bertolino carried the Raiders' offense early, scoring 12 of her team-high 16 points in the first half. Sophomores Ciera Rivers and Olivia Burden picked up the load in the second half. Rivers had 11 of her 15 points after the break and Burden hit three 3-point shots in the fourth quarter to finish with 13 points0.
"The Burden kid was starting to hit in the third and fourth quarters," Moylan said. "She kept them coming after us. Rivera would come after us, too. They have a whole cast of characters, which is good.
"North Rockland keeps getting better. They are young and they are getting better. They will be in the County Center, I think."
Metcalf said Monday's experience should help his team improve.
"It was a great test because we haven't played too many teams like Pearl River," Metcalf said. "Both teams spread the ball. I think for us, they are a team we look to. I constantly preach Pearl River and Lorraine Moylan. Somebody asked me how we get ready for them. I said we run their plays. We don't call them what they call them, but we run their plays."
Both teams will be applying lessons from Monday's game when they play again Friday at North Rockland.
"It's a good test for where we are," Metcalf said. "The way it fell playing them today and Friday, to me as a coach, we now know where the bar is. We know what we have to do the rest of the week. I don't think losing is great, but there are a lot of good lessons to be learned today."
"We know we have to play as hard, if not even harder, and take care of the ball better," Moylan said.
Editor's note: Updated with details and reactions from Monday's game.