Jacqueline DeLuca wasn’t ready for the same old song and dance.
Having never beaten Sewanhaka in her previous four years on varsity, DeLuca and the rest of the Jericho girls basketball team could tell something special was brewing.
The Jayhawks entered the fourth quarter up six points before Sewanhaka stormed back to take a two-point lead. After several lead changes, DeLuca made two free throws to tie the score. Caitlin Chestler made the first of two free throws for a one-point lead with one minute remaining, and the defense stood strong on consecutive possessions to give Jericho a 47-46 win in its Nassau A-II opener on Monday.
Coach Andrew Schneider said it was the first time in his six years coaching Jericho that his team beat Sewanhaka.
“I just remember saying to the team, ‘We have to win this,’ ” DeLuca, who had 23 points and 17 rebounds (10 offensive), said. “It was very tight. We were back and forth. It was just too close to let it slip away.”
Schneider said Jericho pivoted from its usual press defense to a 2-3 zone for the game. Sewanhaka is a speedy, athletic team capable of beating even the toughest of presses, so backing into a zone allowed Jericho to prevent fast breaks.
It also helped keep the Jayhawks out of foul trouble, a benefit with a short bench. Jade Stoler, who averaged 14.6 points per game last season, missed the game with a hip injury, Schneider said.
“She went down on Friday,” he said. “I told the girls, ‘There’s no reason why we can’t win, but we just have to adjust the way we’re going to play.’ Normally, we’re a team that pressures 94 feet and shoots a lot of threes.”
DeLuca picked up much of the scoring load — several on putbacks, along with a 9-for-11 showing from the free-throw line — while Kristina Kallansrude had 10 points, Lucy Peters had seven and Chestler had six.
Flo Hunte and Carly Bolivar each scored 17 for Sewanhaka.
“I’ve been playing for five years, and we hadn’t beat Sewanhaka,” DeLuca said. “Thinking, going into the game, that this is a team we’ve had difficulties playing with. I think that the chemistry with this team has really developed over the years, and with that taken into account, we had a positive outlook.”
Jericho is off to a nice start after missing the playoffs last season. In 2016-17, Jericho earned a playoff berth and a first-round win over Lynbrook, but the Jayhawks have yet to take that next step.
Schneider hopes this could be the year.
“That’s really like a program-defining win,” he said. “We want to build off this and use this as a springboard to maybe a win a lot more of these closer games against teams we’d consider elite.”