By Ted Waddell
MIDDLETOWN January 2, 2007 Blame it on “Zippie.”
For those folks who aren’t familiar with “Zippie,” he’s the seldom seen basketball gremlin who sneaks onto the court and zips up the net so sure-thing shots spin around the rim or avoid the basket all together.
In Thursday afternoon’s Middletown Holiday Classic tournament consolation game between the Sullivan West Lady Bulldogs, a Class B team in the Orange County Interscholastic Athletic Association (OCIAA), and the Midwood Lady Hornets, a Class AA team from the New York City Public School Athletic League (PSAL), the Brooklyn-based high school defeated SW, 49-24.
During Wednesday’s first round of the tourney, the Lady Bulldogs lost to the host Middletown Lady Bears, 47-40, and John S. Burke Catholic High School defeated Midwood, 36-34.
In Thursday’s title game, Burke (5-0) topped Middletown (2-5), 45-30.
On the way to outscoring SW (5-2) in every quarter of the consolation contest (15-9, 13-4, 12-5 and 9-6), Midwood (7-5) took a 15-point halftime lead.
The Lady Bulldogs were dogged by “Zippie” in the first period until Jennifer Pitz put a couple of points on the scoreboard at 1:51. That basket was followed about 30 seconds later by a 3-pointer from Sarah Lander to make it a 9-5 game.
Then “Zippie” figured that was enough, and SW’s shots really started to go awry. “Zippie” was aided in no small part by the Lady Hornets’ aggressive defense, a tactic that threw the Lady Bulldogs off their game plan.
Midwood’s Michelle Cashen was the game’s leading scorer with 14 points.
SW’s Lander, who limped back into action with an ankle injury, was her team’s leading scorer with seven points.
Stats from the free throw line: Midwood went 8-of-14 (57 percent) and SW was 3-of-9 (33 percent).
SW senior forward Donna Kelly was selected for the All-Tournament Team.
“We tried the pressure a little more,” Midwood Coach Artie LaGreca said. “That’s our style… we play trapping, halfcourt zone defense and some man-to-man defense.
“Sullivan West had a little trouble with our pressing, so we tried to capitalize on it in the first half,” he added. “In the second half, we took some of the pressure off.”
SW Coach Ron Bernhardt said the tournament was just about what he expected, as his previously unbeaten team faced a Class AA squad from the city after falling to the Lady Bears “in a very winable game.”
“It’s a long season, and we have all kinds of things we need to get together that aren’t together right now,” he said.
“This is a step in the right direction, even though it was two losses,” Bernhardt added.
For the Lady Bulldogs, things are a bit out of balance and their game-winning synergy needs to reform itself as a couple of injuries to key players are hampering matters. Senior point guard Erin Bernhardt is recovering from a second anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury to her knee and Lander, a junior forward, is nursing a bum ankle.
“It’s never as bad as it looks when you lose, and it’s never as good as it looks when you’re winning,” Coach Bernhardt said.