A winning formula: Townsend Harris girls varsity basketball


Photo by Audrey Phung

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By Kunchaka Fonseka, staff writer

Every year, around this time in February, the gym is packed to bursting with fans, cameras, and food. By halftime, the bakesale in the lobby is vacant of food and its organizers gather at the gym entrance looking on. These are the efforts of the successful Townsend Harris girls varsity basketball team as they face off in another home playoff game.

For the past four years, the Hawks have racked up at least 10 wins and finished close to the top every single season. This year they finished with an impressive 15-3 record that tied them for first in their division. This regular season outing helped them land their elimination game against Forest Hills’ Lady Rangers on our very own court.

The Hawks won in imposing fashion, even after a slow nine point showing in the first quarter. Their shots seemed to be falling short of the mark and playoff jitters gave their passes a tad extra force. However, the next quarter saw the sheer power of great game planning shining through. The Hawks fell back into a stifling zone defense and, albeit how emphatically Brianna Singh of Forest Hills zipped around, the Hawks prevented long-range shots, as well as easy layups, leaving the flustered Hills team to throw up high difficulty floaters in the 15-foot range. On the offensive side, the Hawks showed incredible ball movement that broke open the Hills own zone. On occasion it seemed upwards of 10 to 15 passes were zipped in a matter of seconds. During the second and third quarter, the Hawks outscored the Lady Rangers 43 to 15. Also, it didn’t hurt the cause that by the final buzzer the rebound ratio was 41 to 15 in favor of the home team.

From the end of the third period, it was light cruising as Lauren Caiaccia, the Hawks’ coach and the THHS sports coordinator, rotated some younger players with important playoff minutes to prepare for the next game and the next season. The game ended with a final score of 62 to 29 led by junior Olivia Falba’s 18 points and co-captain Rosalydia Caputo’s 11 rebounds. Now the Hawks will host a second game on Thursday, March 1 against Thurgood Marshall Academy.

When questioned about their success, Junior Weronika Falba remarks that the root is a “group of players that is dedicated 100 percent.” The team practices six times a week, including Saturday practices at 10:30 in the morning. They even have workouts during school breaks. Meeting almost 20 hours a week in a basketball mindset has paid dividends in terms of skill and comfort on the court. Rosalydia adds, “Without good team chemistry, a team cannot be successful,” and the Hawks exhibit so each game. Ms. Caiaccia explains “the system and a commitment to learning plays” as the source of the team’s success.

All her players agree that, however modest Ms. Caiaccia is, she is deserving of a large amount of credit as well. Weronika says that “optimism is always there, wherever Ms. Caiaccia is.” Ms. Caiaccia, in spite of her busy schedule, has an incredible resolve for her teams that rubs off on her players. Rosalydia states, “if you make a mistake you aren’t necessarily punished, [but] Ms. Caiaccia will make it clear to us what we have done wrong and help correct the mistake.” In addition, starting point guard Olivia Falba remarks, “Ms. Caiaccia never takes a break and pushes us harder and harder each practice.” In fact, all three, Weronika, Rosalydia, and Olivia, identify Ms. Caiaccia’s unwavering energy as the trait that surpasses all others as the cornerstone of this team. The adage goes that you are only as strong as your weakest link, but it’s worth something that your strongest link is as prominent and steadfast as Ms. Caiaccia.

This summation of great coaching and dedication is what we are seeing as the molding of a successful team. Look in years to come, and as soon as this week, for the Hawks to play in matches that many teams can only wish for.

Image courtesy of Audrey Phung.