Sports

Garnets fall late to Wildcats

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Katie Popp brings the ball up the floor against Rye Country Day on Dec. 16. Popp had 25 points in Rye’s 55-54 loss to the Wildcats. Photo/Mike Smith

Although the start to the season has been an easy one for the Rye girls’ basketball team, the squad is showing signs of life lately, as they are still searching for their first win of the season. On Dec. 16, in the first round of the Rye Rotary Holiday Classic, the Garnets fell to Rye Country Day 55-54 on a last second free throw, dropping to 0-3 on the year. Despite the loss, however, Garnet coach Dennis Hurlie is confident that his team is beginning to turn the corner.

Despite a strong start that saw the Garnets build a double-digit lead over the Wildcats in the opening minutes, Rye Country Day was able to hang tough, eventually winning on a Taylor Regan foul shot with just 1.1 seconds to play.

Regan and teammate Emily Moran both had 14 points to lead Rye Country Day, while Rye relied heavily on offensive contributions from standout Katie Popp, who finished with a game-high 25.

According to Hurlie, the Wildcats’ defensive pressure—particularly a full-court pressure scheme—proved the difference-maker in the contest.

“First and foremost, they played hard throughout and they gave a great effort,” Hurlie said. “Even though [Popp] had 25 points, they did a really good job making it difficult for her.”

The Garnets, who are coming off a run to the Class A state final four last year, have yet to win a game, but Hurlie said that with so many new players in the mix, there was bound to be a period of adjustment this winter.

As Rye plays together more—and rebounds from injuries to key players like freshman Teagan Flaherty, who has missed the start of the season with a knee injury—the wins should come, Hurlie said.

“We got beaten up in our first two games, but to be in a game like [the one against Rye Country Day], we very much welcome that,” he said. “It was especially good because we have a handful of new faces who are now playing major minutes and getting that experience.”

Even Popp, who was one of the catalysts for last year’s section champs, has had to adjust to a new role with the team, handling point guard duties on the majority of offensive possessions.

“The major change is that she’s got the ball in her hands to start,” Hurlie said. “So everyone sees that, they’re ready to help defensively, but I still think she has gotten off good shots.”

The Garnets will take on Albertus Magnus on Dec. 21, after press time, and play just one more game before the new year. With the bulk of their regular season remaining in 2017, Hurlie is confident that—with a little more game experience—Rye could potentially be in the mix for a County Center berth come playoff time.

“If it was Feb. 19, I’d be panicked, if it was Jan. 19, I would be a little worried, but it’s December and there is a lot of season left,” he said. “There doesn’t seem to be a clear-cut favorite in Class A; we can still win our league, and there’s a long way to go.”

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