WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. – After missing out on on the Section 1 Class A Girls Basketball Championship final four in 2012, Shaina Iton and her veteran Peekskill varsity teammates were motivated to make it this year.
Iton was especially excited because she missed the final four and Peekskill championship in her freshman year in 2011 because of a stress fracture in her foot.
After a rough regular season, the No. 11 seed Red Devils will return to the championship game after a 63-59 win over a stubborn No. 15 Pelham at the Westchester County Center on Thursday.
Peekskill will play the winner of No.4 Albertus Magnus vs. No. 1 Pearl River in the title game at 5 p.m. Sunday.
“We’re a young team, and we are like the underdogs this year, but we were definitely motivated,” Iton said of returning to the County Center.
Peekskill raced out to a double-digit lead after the first quarter, 22-11, but Pelham was resilient. The Pelicans, who had to win an out-bracket game, kept mounting runs and charging hard at Peekskill. However, the Red Devils did not lose their composure.
“Coach told us that they’re going to have runs, but we just have to keep our intensity up,” said Iton, who finished with 12 points.
She halted a quick Pelham run to open the third quarter. After Pelham closed to within four, 33-29, Iton scored consecutive baskets to cushion the lead. In a two-minute stretch in the fourth quarter, Iton made two pivotal baskets. She executed a perfect pick-and-roll and grabbed an offensive rebound to seal the win.
“Shaina has never been one of our main offensive threats, but she has been a consistent cog in our team all year,” Peekskill coach Rodney Headley Jr. said. “I’ve had many different starting lineups, but Shaina has never left the starting lineup.”
Now Iton and Peekskill are looking forward to the final.
“It feels awesome,” Iton said of playing for the title again. “We got off to a rough start, but we feel that we are ready to play for the championship again.”
Freshman Lanay Rodney led Peekskill with 24 points.
Pelham was led by freshman Dani Moretti with a game-high 25 points.