The thought first hit Maeve Parahus with about two minutes remaining in the Albertus Magnus High School girls basketball team’s opening round playoff game against Somers.
“The game was tied and it was the first time I really thought I could actually be playing in my last high school game,” Parahus said. “I didn’t want that to happen, though. It was probably the most I’ve ever screamed at the other girls on the team. I wasn’t ready for it to end.”
Parahus’ senior season didn’t end against Somers. Albertus won 48-41 in overtime. And it didn’t end against John Jay, as the Falcons won by 30, 76-46, in the quarterfinals.
Tonight, Parahus finds herself in a familiar position: heading to the Class A semifinals at the Westchester County Center in White Plains to face Pearl River. For the past two years, the Pirates have ended the Falcons' season in that exact game.
"I've lost to them twice in this same game,” she said. “I don't want to again."
The matchup makes it the third straight year the Falcons and Pirates will play three times in a season. Albertus’ Pat Buckley, in his third season as head coach, beat Pearl River in his first faceoff with the Pirates, who have taken the last seven meetings, including two already this season.
“To beat them we have to defend and rebound well,” Buckley said. “That's what they do. We know they're going to play hard, they're going and defend and rebound, especially on the offensive end. They're a tremendous offensive rebounding team.”
To do that, Parahus knows the Falcons have to play as the tougher team. She said the Falcons played tougher than the Pirates for the first half of their most recent game, but one half isn’t enough.
So while Parahus might see a lot of time in Thursday’s game in the post and going for rebounds, Buckley feels it’s been her work moving away from the basket that has helped the four-year starter improve her game.
“Her ability to hit the three has really helped her develop into a versatile player, and a really though matchup for defenders,” Buckley said. “She’s also really improved defensively this year. She’s not just in the post, but she can guard players out on the wing too.”
Parahus said it was a conscious effort to expand her game and help her work her way toward playing collegiately, a goal she started seriously thinking about her freshman year. She said playing in AAU tournaments between her sophomore and junior season was when she first thought playing in college was an actual possibility. Last November, Parahus signed a letter of internet to play at Division I Manhattan College.
“When I went on my official visit, I just thought the coaches were awesome and I fit in really well with the girls on the team,” she said.
In addition to her improving game, Buckley said Parahus’ personality makes her a quality leader.
“She’s just so happy go-lucky,” he said. “She never seems to be in a bad mood. All the girls love her, and she’s completely unselfish. She’s always looking to get her teammates involved and help them out.”
That was perhaps most evidenced this year when Parahus went up for a rebound in practice and landed awkwardly, spraining her right ankle. The injury caused her to miss two games, the first games she had to miss in her high school career.
“Sitting on the bench was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do,” she said. “I was lost. I remember talking to the girls and telling them they didn’t need to me win, and they didn’t. They won both games I was out.”
Both Buckley and Parahus think her selflessness comes from home. Parahus, of Congers, is the second oldest of six children, two boys and four girls.
“You can’t be selfish in my house, especially with my younger sisters,” she said.
If five siblings aren’t enough, Buckley said he thinks a lot of the younger girls on the team look up to Parahus as an older sister as well.
“We’re definitely a family here at Albertus,” Parahus said. “We’re all friends and we hang out on weekends. We go to someone’s house and watch movies a lot. I just want to keep playing with them as long as I can.”
Check back with Patch for more on Thursday's game.