HASTINGS — When the Putnam Valley women’s basketball team dropped six points to Hastings in January, the reason was clear to Put Valley star guard Eva DeChent.
Her team, she said, lacked energy.
And so she spread the word to the school ahead of Thursday night’s return to Hastings High gymnasium for the Section 1 Class B semi-final game.
“We told everyone they had to be here,” she said.
And it seemed like almost everyone was.
The gym was packed with Putnam Valley and Hastings fans as DeChent demonstrated what she meant by playing hard.
The junior, who has already committed to play for the University of Rhode Island Division I, had a team-high 14 points and played late-game stoppage defense as the Tigers, fifth seed, beat top seed Hastings 51-45.
That defense was partly in the fourth quarter on Hastings senior forward Paige Martin, who has signed up to play for St. Francis College in Brooklyn next year.
Martin hit for 11 of his 16 points, dominating on the inside in the third quarter and helping the Yellow Jackets narrow the deficit from 30-23 at halftime to 39-36 early in the fourth quarter.
Putnam Valley’s lead was further reduced to 39-38 early in the fourth when Hastings’ Kate Ryan grabbed an offensive rebound and scored.
But that’s when DeChent showed his energy.
First, after miscommunication led to Hastings throwing the ball out of bounds, DeChent hit Ava Harman with a near-complete pass and Harman converted a layup.
Then, after a Hastings timeout with 5:36 remaining, DeChent stole the ball, drove into the paint, spun and hit a left-handed layup to extend the Tigers’ lead to 43- 38.
A few minutes later, with Putnam Valley leading 47-42, she battled and got a tiger possession pop ball, and ultimately dove to the ground to get a loose ball, then, as she was still on the ground, managed to throw a perfect half-court pass to Natalie Mazza, whose ensuing lay-up gave Putnam Valley a seven-point lead with less tan per minute to play.
DeChent, who guarded Martin in the fourth quarter and limited his touches and, in turn, his scoring to just two points, earned best-game honors.
By the numbers
Amanda Orlando had 11 points for Putnam Valley, which is now 16-7.
Nai Torres had eight points and Ava Harmon, Brianna Foody and Mazza each had six points.
Hastings junior Violet Bowen-Rink had a game-high 18 points. Included was a key top 3-pointer with 34.2 seconds left that brought the Yellow Jackets within four at 49-45.
Jillian Pena had five points and Luisa Scioscia and Alexandra Magaro each had a bucket for the Yellow Jackets, who finish the season at 17-3.
Don Hamlin, who took over as Putnam Valley coach just before the season after retiring from Briarcliff last year, gave Martin one final basketball compliment, calling her a ‘dumb’ .
He joked that his team felt they had to ‘torture’ him by allowing Martin and his teammates back into the game, but said of his team: “I liked the fact that after ( Hastings) had a pretty big run in the third quarter, we didn’t lose our lead.”
“I love this team. We played our best,” said five-year-old Martin, a yellow vest, who said of the difference in play: “A lot of our shots weren’t going in. Our shots jumped did not fall.”
Of her assist as she lay on the ground, DeChent said, “I just saw her and I knew we had to score.”
“At the end of the day, it’s the team with the most energy and keeping their cool (that wins),” DeChent said.
Putnam Valley, who won a state regional title last year and was in regionals the year before when COVID ended play, will face second seed Irvington on Saturday at 4 p.m. at Yorktown High School in the class B championship game.
Putnam Valley beat Irvington during the regular season with DeChent out, but Hamlin said Irvington was also short on players and predicted Saturday’s game would be a “completely different game.”
The championship will be a rematch of the 2020 Finals in which Putnam Valley defeated the Bulldogs 52-49 to claim their first-ever Division 1 women’s basketball title.
Nancy Haggerty covers cross country, track and field, field hockey, skiing, ice hockey, women’s lacrosse and other sporting events for The Journal News/lohud. Follow her on Twitter at @HaggertyNancy and @LoHudHockey.