Garnets Press Harrison Out of the Gym in Easy Victory

Nearly a year had passed since their previous meeting, but the memory remained fresh in the memory of the Rye girls’ basketball team. After losing on a last-second shot to Harrison last February, the Garnets intended on serving up a cold dish of revenge at home January 19.

Freshman Rachel Egan had 14 assists in the win.

Rye did just that, muzzling the Huskies from the get-go and eventually emerging 74-55 winners over their rivals.

“That buzzer-beater game was on our minds from the opening tap,” said senior captain Lillian McCabe. “I think this is the most we’ve ever scored.” It was indeed Rye’s highest point total in at least three seasons.

Junior forward Grace Leishman scored the first basket off the opening tip, and then Rye unleashed its suffocating press. The Garnets stole the ball on the throw-in and senior captain Catharine Greer made a shot while being fouled. After sinking the free throw, Rye again snatched the ball, this time in the defensive half of the court, and McCabe ended up swishing two at the charity stripe after being fouled on the fast break.

The pace, pressure, and sheer aggression of the Garnets had the Huskies reeling as Rye finished the first quarter up 24-7 with three substitutes – Courtney Cypher, Victoria Pacos, and Katie Killip – on the floor.

Grace Leishman is a key component in Rye’s press.

“We love to press and we love to start the game pressing even more,” said head coach Mary Henwood. “Each game we’ve improved on our pressing abilities as a team. Leishman and McCabe create a strong trap on the initial entrance pass, and then Greer reads it and usually gets a steal or a deflection. It’s hard for the other team to get going after being trapped with that height.”

Leishman and McCabe are both six-footers.

“We had to come out strong because Harrison is always competitive,” said Greer. “I think we did a good job with that, but we couldn’t be complacent. We kept the press and the pressure on so they never really had a chance to get back in it.”

Trailing 38-16 at halftime, Harrison used the intermission to regroup. The Huskies scored the first seven points of the third quarter, at which point Rye turned up the heat. Killip caught fire, beginning with a lay-up on an inbound steal. She then nailed a pair of inside shots within the next two minutes, which contributed to the Garnets’ 53-34 lead after three periods of play.

“They are getting better and better,” said Henwood of Killip and the rest of her super subs. “They are identifying their roles and are stepping in with confidence. We don’t miss much of a beat with our subs in pressure situations. That is a difficult team concept to develop. Sometimes it never happens. It depends on the personalities of the girls, their trust in their teammates and coaching staff, and their willingness to push and get better. We can go deep into playoffs if this continues.”

Harrison used a press of their own to try a comeback in the fourth, and – to their credit – cut the lead to 13. Rye amped it up again, with McCabe hitting a 3-pointer, and Greer drawing three consecutive fouls and sinking every free throw (Rye shot over 90 percent from the stripe). Greer finished with 22 points and seven rebounds, McCabe had 20 points and seven rebounds, and Leishman pitched in with 14 points and six boards. At the point, freshman Rachel Egan dished out 14 assists.

Rye is now 4-0 in league play (6-2 overall), and has won four consecutive games. Greer attributes much of the team’s success to chemistry and ambition.

“Everyone gets along very well and we have team dinners before every game so we’re as close as possible,” said the captain. “Our goal as a team is to win the League title.”

The Garnets and Huskies will be back at it January 29, this time in Harrison’s gym.

– Melanie Cane

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