Garnets Cruise to the County Center

In a season that began with unprecedented turbulence at their front steps, the Rye girls’ basketball team delivered a fitting home finale February 22 in the Class A Section quarterfinals. The fourth-seeded Garnets defeated No. 5 Ardsley matter-of-factly, punching a ticket to the Section semifinals at the County Center with a 61-42 victory.

Mary Henwood returned to the helm after Rye’s then-coach, Brian Lavelle, was accused of stealing money from a student’s backpack and subsequently dismissed. Henwood took on the challenge and led the Garnets on a cathartic run in her 25th season with the team.

Rye finished the season tied for first place in the league at 15-3, and throttled 13th-seeded Pelham 54-20 in the first round of the playoffs. After falling behind 3-0, the Garnets went on a 28-0 run to end the first quarter and never looked back. In the quarterfinals, senior captain Lillian McCabe and Grace Leishman combined for 41 points to lead Rye to their first trip to the County Center since winning the championship in 2005.

Rye’s seniors, Jillian Chittenden, Catharine Greer, Kelly O’Neill, and Lillian McCabe, take a breather.

“No one can understand the magnitude of this achievement,” said Henwood, on her birthday. “The amount of work and dedication the players have put into this is spectacular. It’s a beautiful way for the seniors to go out.”

For the seniors, McCabe, Catharine Greer, Jillian Chittenden, and Kelly O’Neill, the quarterfinal victory was an ideal, but bittersweet, end to their careers at home.

“We are happy and sad,” noted Greer, who has been with McCabe for four years on varsity, and played AAU with her before then. “But, we have gone to so many Section championships at the County Center as spectators and have always wanted to be on the court.”

Rye gets their chance March 3, when they play top-seeded Peekskill in the semifinals. In their only other meeting this season, the Garnets lost 62-39 to the Red Devils.

— Melanie Cane

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