NEWBURGH — Marlboro head coach Marion Casey told the players before the biggest game of their season, “You don’t want to lose a game like that.” Not after all the work they had put in all season.
So the Marlboro players responded. Not by winning, but by running away with it and covering their tracks so their opponent couldn’t follow them. The third-seeded Dukes devoured the top-seeded Onteora Eagles, 69-51, at Mount Saint Mary College on Friday in the Class B Section 9 girls basketball championship. It wasn’t close. The Dukes took what they knew was theirs. The Eagles could only watch helplessly.
Elizabeth Lofaro’s 3-pointer with 4:45 remaining in the first quarter put Marlboro ahead 6-4. The Dukes never trailed from there. Elizabeth, a junior guard, cashed out at the bank, nailing a buzzer beater to end the opening quarter. Marlboro led 16-9, a modest margin considering what was to come.
Marlboro’s offense stagnated to start the second, and Casey took notice. From the other end of the court, she yelled, “Lizzie, I want the ball in your hands.” Lizzie (Elizabeth) listened, controlling the ball from the top of the key before finding an open Erin Lofaro under the basket to extend the advantage to 18-11.
Onteora, like so many victims prior, had no answer for Erin Lofaro. It wasn’t just her layup. Her short jumper, her hook, they were all clicking. She caught a pass near the basket and, like bowling pins, the white-jerseyed defenders around her fell over one another in their hopeless defensive pursuit. In the third quarter, when the future Massachusetts-Lowell forward effortlessly rolled to her left, past two defenders to swish a simple jump shot, a kid in the crowd shouted, “She’s D-I!”
But Erin wasn’t the only one. The whole roster stepped up to ground the high-flying Eagles. Liz Fino knocked down a long jumper to extend the Marlboro lead to 10 late in the first half. Briana Bernicker made a 3-point shot to push a second-half chasm to 20. Hannah Polumbo connected on a short-range jump shot to push the lead to 21. Then she hit the same shot from the same spot to create a 23-point gap.
“Everybody contributed in some way today,” Erin Lofaro said. “That was huge.” Elizabeth added, “The whole team was ready for this moment.”
Erin said she is not unaware of the amount of sand remaining in the hourglass, so close to the end of a high school career. “I want to make the most of it,” she said. This season is, in some ways, a coronation for the 1,000-point scorer and rebounder. But this is a team just as ready to face the chapters ahead as they are prepared to battle in the present.
Casey said, while holding her almost-2-year-old daughter Remi, “It’s amazing and I’m just lucky.”
Marlboro is determined to make sure the luck doesn’t run out in the same spot it did last year. The Dukes play in the first round of the Class B state tournament Wednesday at Horace Greeley High School in Chappaqua.
Elizabeth Lofaro said of her sister, “I really want to make the most out of all the time I had with her.”