The Highland girls’ basketball team has won 18 straight games and now has some hardware to show for it.
The Huskies overcame Brianna Rozzi’s foul trouble on Friday night and defeated the Millbrook Blazers, 51-37, to win the Mid Hudson Athletic League championship Friday night at SUNY Ulster.
“It’s a great accomplishment for us,” said Rozzi, who scored a game-high 20 points in limited action. “This is my first time coming to the tournament so I was excited to win the championship.”
Another great accomplishment for the Huskies (19-1) was holding the Blazers in check for most of the second quarter when Rozzi rang up her third personal foul just 25 seconds in.
The result wasn’t pretty, and the Huskies’ offense struggled mightily, but the defense stepped up, limiting Millbrook to 6 second-quarter points.
“I have nothing but praise for my girls coming off the bench in the second quarter,” Highland coach Jim Malak said.
“They kept us in the game. We weren’t scoring, but we weren’t letting them score. We hang our hat on defense.”
Highland’s play in the second quarter showed how far the Huskies have come this season.
“In the beginning of the season, I would come out, the other team would press us and everything would fall apart,” Rozzi said. “We’ve practiced taking me out, letting them do it and they’ve just been doing such a great job.”
Rozzi came back in the game in the third quarter and after Sam Garcia, who finished with 13 points, hit a layup to extend the lead to three points, Rozzi went on an 8-2 run to take a 34-25 lead.
Garcia also was strong on the boards, limiting the Blazers to one shot and giving her team second-shot opportunities.
“Sam’s been doing it all year,” Malak said. “She’s a warrior in there. She’s really smart defensively. We talk about not getting into early foul trouble. She stays on the ground and she has long reach and not necessarily jumping out of her shoes. She’s been doing it all year with blocks and rebounds.”
Millbrook closed the lead to five points with 4:12 to go in the third quarter, but never got any closer.
“Our team was doing really good this year,” Garcia said. “We’re on a roll right now.”
And with one trophy in their hand the Huskies are setting their sights on higher goals. The upcoming Section IX Class B tournament.
The Huskies have gained the top seed and were scheduled to host the winner of Saturday’s game between No. 9 Rhinebeck and No. 8 James I. O’Neill on Tuesday night.
“This will give us confidence going into sectionals knowing we can do what we did tonight,” Rozzi said. “We’re excited to get the hardware.”
By Mike Zummo