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LI Lutheran girls lose, 70-42, in state Federation semifinal

L.I. Lutheran's Samantha Plunkett stops and pops against

L.I. Lutheran's Samantha Plunkett stops and pops against Irvington's Lisa Bucci during their game against Irvington H.S. (March 26, 2010) Photo Credit: Photo by Pat Orr Photography

GLENS FALLS, N.Y. - A look of amazement appeared on Jessica DeNicola's face as she tried to describe how Long Island Lutheran fell behind by so much so early against Westchester Irvington on Friday.

"They came right out, got the ball and it's hard to explain," Lutheran's 6-2 senior center said of Irvington, the top-ranked Class B girls basketball team in the state. "Every shot went in and before you know it, we were down by a lot."

Left in the trail of Irvington's efficient, balanced offense and pressure defense, the Crusaders fell behind by 10 points three minutes into the game and 21 by the end of the first quarter en route to a 70-42 loss in the state Federation Class B semifinals at the Glens Falls Civic Center.

Irvington plays state CHSAA champion St. Mary's of Lancaster in the final at 10:30 a.m. Saturday.

By the time 3:52 had been played, all five Irvington starters had scored. Its defense forced eight first-half steals, many converted into fast-break points, as it raced to a 25-4 lead after a quarter and a 40-18 halftime advantage.

"What we didn't want to happen happened," Lutheran coach Rich Slater said. "We didn't want a track meet and they started off in a sprint."

Tara Gabelman led Irvington (25-1), the state public school Class B champion, with 23 points and nine rebounds. Lisa Bucci, Riley Harrington and Alexis Martins each had 12 points. Martins added 14 rebounds and five blocks and four Irvington players had three assists each.

Sophomore guard Paige Kriftcher scored 15 points for Lutheran (20-4). DeNicola added nine points and six rebounds.

Gabelman, a senior forward, hit consecutive buckets to begin the game and Irvington senior guards Harrington and Bucci followed with back-to-back three-pointers. Suddenly, it was 10-0 just three minutes in.

The lead was 19-2 with 2:27 remaining in the first quarter after Martins' block started a fast-break charge that ended with Marley Giddins' three-point play. It was one of numerous successful three-on-one, three-on-two or two-on-one breaks for Irvington.

"We knew they were a good team, but they just went on a run early and we couldn't get back," Kriftcher said. "It's tough to see them have that lead and still say, 'We got this.' I really did think we had it at first, but they just kept going."

DeNicola scored four points during a 6-0 Lutheran run early in the third quarter, but Harrington capped an 8-0 Irvington response with a steal and score to make it 50-24 with 4:03 left in the third.

"I thought we had the personnel to win, but I also knew how strong they were," Irvington coach Gina Maher said. "We needed to play an 'A' game, and we did play an 'A' game."

Maybe even A-plus.

Even Lutheran boys basketball coach John Buck was impressed. Buck, who watched the game with his team as they waited to play in their semifinal Friday night, said of Irvington: "They run the fast break better than us."

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