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Science topples Mott Haven, now focused on playoffs

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It had been almost two full months since the Bronx Science Wolverines had last seen their old nemesis, Mott Haven. Christmas and New Year’s had come and gone, so did Groundhog Day for that matter.

And all the while, tucked in the back of their collective mind, the Wolverines thought about Mott Haven.

The last time the Wolverines and Mavericks did battle was Dec. 14, which coincidentally was also the last time Bronx Science had tasted defeat, coming out on the short end of a 33-24 defensive battle. But this time the Wolverines swore it would be different. And with revenge on their minds — and coming into last Thursday’s regular-season finale riding the crest of a 12-game winning streak — Science made good on its vow of victory.

It wasn’t easy for the Wolverines, but a putback by Carolina Lopez off her own missed free throw with 9.6 seconds to play in regulation sent the game to overtime. There, Sarang West drained the game-clinching long three-pointer with 44.4 seconds to play as Bronx Science handed Mott Haven its first loss of the season with a thrilling 47-46 victory.

Science concluded the regular season 16-2 while the Mavericks finished 17-1. The victory also enabled the Wolverines to avenge both losses as they also knocked off Clinton in a return match in January.

“It was exacting revenge,” said Lopez, Science’s sophomore guard who poured in a game-high 19 points. “It was the same thing as Clinton, except on a much greater scale. (Mott Haven) have been our rivals for I don’t know how long. After we lost last time to them, and we only scored 24 points in the whole game. We needed to show them that we’re still contenders in the league.”

For large portions of the game, Science clearly looked like the better team as the Wolverines led 12-4 after the first quarter and 24-14 at the half. Mott Haven managed to cut into Science’s points advantage at the end of the third period when the Mavericks pulled within two.

The start of the fourth quarter saw Mott Haven get its offensive groove on with back-to-back three-pointers by Chelsea Dixon and Debra Bonilla to give the Mavericks their first lead of the game at 35-31. And when Mott Haven extended its lead to 38-33 with 1:17 to play after a Dixon free throw, Science seemed to be running out of time.

But Lucy Del Deo nailed a jumper with just over a minute to play to pull the Wolverines within three, helping set up the frantic finish to regulation.

Lopez was fouled with 11.9 seconds to play. She made her first free throw before missing the second. But Del Deo managed to tip the rebound back to Lopez just in front of the foul line, and she calmly sank the short jumper to knot the game at 38 and force overtime.

Neither team could pull away in the extra session, but with Science down 45-44 and time winding down, West sank her only three-ball of the game for a 47-45 lead, and the Wolverines held on from there.

“The whole game I was really struggling from beyond the (three-point) arc, and even inside,” West said. “But it was a great feeling to hit that shot. This was a great win. I think everyone can now go into the playoffs feeling a lot more confident, especially the seniors, because this is their last year. Beating (Mott Haven) this time is going to be a big confidence booster for all of us.”

The Wolverines senior duo went out with a splash as Tiffany Chyke Okpuzor grabbed 16 rebounds and Christina Satina finished with eight points and four boards.

“Mott Haven has always been our biggest rival, so it’s always really fun to beat them at home,” said Del Deo, who logged seven points, seven rebounds and one very important tip to Lopez. “Having a crowd here, and it being the last game of the regular season, it just meant so much to find a way to finish on a good note, and go into the playoffs strong.”

The Wolverines, the 13th-seed in the in the Public School Athletic League playoffs, will open what they hope will be an extended postseason run with a first-round game against 20th-seed Hunter on Feb. 13 at 5 p.m. The Hawks finished 11-4 in the Manhattan A East Division this season.

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