By Sean Lynch
WARWICK — Warwick sophomore guard Kristen Desrats high-fived each of her teammates coming off the floor after a timeout with two minutes left.
They had just forced a turnover and were tied at 31 apiece against Monroe-Woodbury.
The Wildcats milked the clock with several ball-reverses around the perimeter before Desrats drove into the lane. Almost immediately, the defense collapsed and she dropped a perfect bounce-pass to junior forward Caitie Unger.
It gave the Wildcats a two point lead with 1:27 left, and momentum they needed to fight off the feisty Crusaders.
They outlasted Monroe-Woodbury 37-33 in a non-league win.
“This was a game we really wanted to win,” said Desrats. “We always give a lot of effort in practice, but there was definitely that extra bit of effort these last couple of days because we really wanted to beat Monroe.”
Along with Desrats, eighth-grader Paige Girardi, Unger and junior Isabella Astorino each had eight points — combining for 32-of-the-team’s-36 total points.
”It was a great all-around win,” she added. “We didn’t have someone who stood out tonight. It was all about doing the little things right on offense & defense, and for the most part we did that.”
Both teams played a suffocating 2-3 zone defense, which resulted in a combined 21 turnovers. Warwick didn’t do anything out-of-the-ordinary to contain 6-foot forwards Melissa Alifano and Jamie Waldron, but their help-defense and effort made it difficult for them to score.
“I knew the girls were gonna give their best effort, but I wasn’t sure if they would be able to deal with Monroe’s size,” said Warwick head coach Jim O’Brien. “We were supposed to give help on the block, and for the most part we did. Our center (Isabella Astorino) fought Jamie (Waldron) tooth-and-nail — about as good as I’ve seen anyone play her in two years,” he added.
O’Brien is Waldron’s uncle. He admitted that no matter who wins, there’s never any hard feelings.
“If Warwick wins, we hug after the game, if Monroe wins, we hug after the game. Maybe there’s a little bragging rights, but that’s about it.”
Waldron was held to five points & six rebounds — both season-lows. She admitted that playing against her uncle is fun, and hopes to play him again this season when the stakes are higher.
“Playing against my uncle is really fun,” she said. “It makes me wants to show off and win for bragging rights. But I take nothing away from him. He’s an amazing coach and it was a great win for him. Tonight was a dog-fight and both teams played hard. Hopefully we’ll get to see them again in the playoffs.”
O’Brien enjoyed the non-league challenge, but is focused on two league games which will determine their playoff seeding.
“Monroe is probably the most talented team (in Section 9) but in our league games against Valley Central and Washingtonville, they were beating us in the fourth quarter. We still have to play against both of them again and finish the season strong. Tonight was a great test for the team, but we still got a lot more work to do.”