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Tigers Win First Section 1, Class B Championship

By Sean McGee
Special to HVSR


This is exactly what the administration at Putnam Valley High School was hoping for four years ago when they brought back Kristi Dini to coach at the school where she once starred as a player.

The impossibly wide smiles.

The jumping for joy.

The Gold Ball.

It was 13 years ago that the Tigers were even in a Section 1, Class B title game, but they made history on Saturday, beating mighty Irvington – five-time defending sectional champ and defending state champion – by the score of 52-49 at the Westchester County Center.

Putnam Valley will play Section 9 champion Marlboro on Wednesday in the first round of the state regionals at Horace Greeley High School.

Like the players, this was a dream come true for Dini.

“I mean it’s just so great to be back home and in the community,” said Dini. “I’ve done so many cool things in basketball and in my career. I want this for these kids because that group is special. I just wanted it for them.”

They did it with equal parts clutch shots, tough defense, good decision-making … and some unwanted motivation.




Eleven seconds into the fourth quarter the game would be halted when PV’s Amanda Orlando – who had already taken four charges – was run over by Irvington’s Grace Thybulle while defending a fast break.

Orlando crashed to the floor in obvious pain with elbow and neck injuries, leading to a 20-minute delay. Players, including Thybulle, were in tears as Orlando was taken off the court on a stretcher. Dini, visibly angry and emotional, drew a technical foul for arguing with the referees.

“We all said in the huddle we’re doing this for Amanda,” Dini said. “I was really upset with the calls. Amanda was crying on the floor, saying I’m sorry, I’m sorry. I held her hand and said ‘Amanda, we’re going to win this for you.’”

“Nobody wants one of their key players to go down, but we pushed through and won it for her,” said senior guard Kelli Venezia, who led the Tigers with 20 points. “We love her so much and she is such an important factor to our team. To be able to bring this [Gold Ball] to her is a really good feeling.”

The Tigers fought all game with the Bulldogs, not giving them anything easy inside the paint. Irvington had a game plan to pound the ball inside, posting up Thybulle. The Tigers doubled and sent players to stunt at the center the whole game, making life difficult for her. Thybulle would finish with 18 points, but it was not enough in the end for Irvington.

“I was yelling a little bit because when we weren’t doubling it was obvious,” Dini said. “We wanted to double her and make it more difficult. For whatever reason, a couple stops at the end and a big three [point shot] by Arianna [Stockinger] we were able to pull it out.”

Indeed, Stockinger (10 points) hit a dagger triple with 1:20 left in the game to put Putnam Valley up by five.

“It was definitely a risky shot,” she said. “I didn’t really think about it at first and, thank God, that went in. It really helped us.”

Eva DeChent added 17 points for PV.

Putnam valley did a great job fronting the post and creating turnovers on entry passes and with each failed lob by Irvington, Putnam Valley was off to the races.

“We knew we had to push as hard as we could because this is win or go home, so we knew we had to give everything,” DeChent said.




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