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Scognamiglio Sparks Pearl River Basketball

Senior Marissa Scognamiglio runs the offense as the Pearl River girls basketball team's point guard, but there is a lot more to her game.

Pearl River senior point guard Missy Scognamiglio scored 22 points in the Pirates' 68-53 victory over Albertus Magnus Jan. 31, but the senior also pulled down nine rebounds. 

Scognamiglio insists shooting is not her strong suit, but Albertus Magnus Head Coach Pat Buckley was not surprised by her scoring touch or her versatility.

"She does what they need her to do," Buckley said. "If she has to score 22 like she did tonight, or if she has to steal the ball 10 times, she's going to do it. She's a competitive kid. She's become a great high school point guard."

From unexpectedly taking over at point a year ago to providing a little bit of everything this winter, the versatile Scognamiglio keeps adapting to the role her team needs her to play.

"That's what Missy does," Pearl River Head Coach Lorraine Moylan said. "She realizes the situation and adapts to make it bets for her an everybody around her. She defends. She gets deflections. Her defensive intensity is awesome. She runs the show. She gets people the ball that need it. Whatever we seem to need, she has a knack to figure it out and give it to us."

"She does everything. There really isn't anything she doesn't do," said senior Amanda DeCourcey, Scognamiglio's long-time teammate in soccer and basketball. "She's a leader. She makes her shots. She's good on defense. She's good on offense. When she gets going, the whole team feeds off her momentum."

DeCourcey knows as well as anyone that Scognamiglio is doing that in her second-best sport. They both first made the varsity soccer team as eighth graders, when Scognamiglio started a few games before becoming a full-time first teamer as a freshman. Scognamiglio earned first-team all-state honors as a senior, playing primarily in the midfield as the Pirates won the Section 1 Class A championship.

"She was just awesome," said Moylan, who saw most of the girls soccer games, either running the scoreboard at home or as a spectator. "She lets kids around her be great."

Scognamiglio will play college soccer at Division III College of New Jersey. She said it was the total package with strong academics, quality facilities, and the size she was looking for and just close enough to home. Though she loves both sports, soccer comes first.

"In fourth or fifth grade, I started to be drawn to it more," Scognamiglio said. "It's just being outside and having more space to work with. I've always liked it more."

Her role as a center midfielder in soccer has helped her as a point guard in basketball. 

"Even though they seem like polar opposites to someone who doesn't know either sport, it's just working with a team and relying on people around you," Scognamiglio said. "It's field vision or court vision, seeing the field and where to put the ball next and what's the next best play. The center midfielder has to gather the ball and distribute it. For basketball, it's settling down the offense and calling plays."

Scognamiglio had played point guard in eighth grade, but she was expecting to come off the bench as a wing guard for the basketball team as a junior. The Pirates returned four starters from the team that had made the section championship game in 2011, including All-Section point guard Nicole Grossbard. 

The plan changed when Grossbard tore the ACL in her knee in Aug. 2011, forcing her to miss the season and pushing Scognamiglio into her place.

"At first, I thought they were kidding. Then it was devastating," Scognamiglio said. "We were supposed to have this great season with five seniors starting and Amanda and myself coming off the bench. Then Nicole got hurt and everything was upside down. Everyone was expecting so much from us, then me having to step into that was scary, but my teammates and Moylan gave me the confidence to be a good ball handler and a great point guard. That's carried over to this year, when I'm still improving."

Scognamiglio both gave credit to Grossbard, now starting as a freshman at Southern Connecticut State, for helping to ease the transition. Scognamiglio also had the support of older sister Christa Scognamiglio, the three-time all-state selection who would finish last season as Pearl River's all-time leading scorer.

"Nicole had the subtle side of it. She would tell me what to do," said Marissa Scognamiglio, who then laughed as she talked about her older sister's contribution. "Christa would yell at me and blame things on me. Moylan would tell me how it is."

It all worked well enough that Missy Scognamiglio helped and then reach the state semifinals for the first time in school history. 

Missy Scognamiglio said she loved playing with her older sister, adding that it felt strange early this season to be playhing without her.

"It was definitely fun," Missy Scognamiglio said. "I was never jealous of her. It's hard to be jealous of somebody who didn't have it given to her. She earned everything she worked for. Instead of jealous, I admired her and strived to be like her. It was definitely fun to play with her. (Last year) was the best year.

"I think it's perfect. We are so close in age that we shared it a little more. One year on my own is a good fit."

Fallen Expectations

Scognamiglio admits that the Pirates' 15-2 record is a little more satisfying given how low expectations were for Pearl River after losing four starters to graduation. They will most likely enter the Section 1 Class A tournament as a No. 1 or No. 2 seed.

"From our loss to Averill Park last year in the state final four, everybody wrote us off for this year," Scognamiglio said. "To come out as a No. 1 or No. 2 seed after everybody said we can't do it is a great feeling. I'm proud of how hard we've worked as a team."

Pearl River will complete its regular season with today's senior recognition home game against Nyack. The Section 1 Class A playoff seedings will be set later tonight. 

"What worked is not just the physical aspect," Scognamiglio said. "It's not just our press, our defense or Moylan making us be intense 100 percent of the time. I think it's all that, but it's also everybody wanting it and doing it for the seniors and each other. It's motivation from people saying we weren't going to do well. It's wanting to prove them wrong."

That focus on defense and fast-paced offense is a perfect fit for Scognamiglio, who said she and her team thrive on their ability to attack quickly on offense.

"I like when one of our posts, or anybody, gets a rebound and gets it out to me quickly and I can hit somebody on the fly," Scognamiglio said. "I like fast breaking. What we do best is when we're running. That and the press."

Playing with DeCourcey, the Pirates' other co-captain, also helps. 

"They've done an excellent job," Moylan said. "They know what's required of them. They respect each other. They bring out the best in each other. Senior year is always different. Kids know how important it is, how much they want it. Senior year, everything comes together."

"It was either Moylan or (girls soccer head coach Tim) Peabody who told us at the beginning of the season that we read each other's minds," Scognamiglio said. "We work really well together. Being captains together in soccer and now basketball, we feed off each other and we know how to communicate with other players."

Moylan relentlessly talks about getting better no matter what her team just accomplished, something she continues to see in her point guard. She also said that although Scognamiglio downplays her shooting, she has become a better scorer this year.

"She has gotten better and she's gotten a lot stronger this year than she was last year," Moylan said. "She's grown more into her body. She keeps on getting better. She keeps improving. It's great to see. 

"She scores more this year than last year. She's getting double figures almost every game. She's more consistent with that. She doesn't consider herself a big scorer, but she is. The last couple years she hadn't had to. This year we need her to score a little more."

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