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After Early-Season Turmoil, Blue Devils Again Win Section 1, Class C

By Sean McGee
Rich Thomaselli

WHITE PLAINS – What began in November with unexpected early-season turmoil ended up in March in familiar place for the Haldane High School girls basketball team.

Holding the Gold Ball.

The Blue Devils won their seventh consecutive Section 1, Class C championship on Saturday, defeating Tuckahoe 49-22 at the Westchester County Center.

Haldane will play Millbrook in an all-local first-round state regional game on Tuesday at neutral Horace Greeley High School.

“I can’t even explain this,” said Haldane’s Liv Monteleone, clutching the Gold Ball. “We started off the season and it was new, and a bunch of stuff was going on, but we learned to grow and learned how to play as a team. It’s just an amazing feeling that I know my teammates have my back.”

Jessica Perrone

This was not only seven straight sectional titles for the Blue Devils, not only their 27th Gold Ball in the last 32 years, but the first for new head coach Jessica Perrone.

Perrone did a terrific job of navigating uncharted waters for the program when she took over at the start of the season under dubious circumstances.

Longtime and beloved coach Tyrone Searight was terminated in December by the Haldane Board of Education after being first placed on leave following his arrest in October on charges of defrauding the state of New York of nearly $17,000 in workers’ compensation benefits.



Searight was injured while on the job as a bus driver for the MTA, but the state Inspector General’s office investigated the claim and found that Searight continued to coach during the seven months he claimed benefits from his fulltime job. Searight pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of disorderly conduct and made restitution in full.

Though Perrone was certainly familiar to the program as the JV coach, she faced unexpected – and certainly undeserved – backlash from those loyal to Searight. At the board meeting where the 11-year coach was terminated, Perrone’s mother spoke during the public comment period and said her daughter was receiving nasty phone calls.

And at least one player who also spoke, Olivia McDermott, ended up quitting the team.

“(Firing Searight) will do more damage than you think,” she told the board before the vote.

As it turns out, it didn’t.

Asked about winning the title amidst the controversy, Perrone politely danced around the question.

“It feels awesome. I’m glad because the girls have won it six year in a row, so I didn’t want the streak to end with me,” she said. “I had full confidence in my team and we’re just going to keep moving forward and looking ahead to Millbrook.”

Haldane was once again the best team in the section and the best team on the floor in both its semifinal and finals games at the County Center.

Bela Monteleone had a game-high 19 points for Haldane.

“In the first half I wasn’t really doing much, but in the second half all my nerves kind of went away,” Bela Monteleone said. “Being out there means a lot, it was my last time at the County Center and I knew I needed to do something. I was a kind of angered with myself in the beginning, knowing I could do better.”

Maddie Chiera had 11 points for the Devils and Shianne Twoguns scored all nine of her points in the first quarter to spark the fire.

“It’s awesome, this is my third [gold ball] on varsity,” Twoguns said. “Being able to win with this team is amazing.”




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