PURCHASE, N.Y. – Even though seven girls graduated from the Keio Academy's girls basketball 2012 Section 1 Class C finalist team, coach Justin Loeb was confident when practice opened.
“We had a lot of experience returning in four starters,” said Loeb, who is in his third year as coach. “We have girls who have multiple years on the team so they know and understand the system.”
The team’s goal was a return trip to the Westchester County Center for the Section 1 Class C Girls Basketball Championship Final Four, Loeb said. Keio achieved this goal on Wednesday.
Keio, seeded fourth, defeated fifth-seeded Solomon Schecter, 37-11, in a quarterfinal game. The Unicorns will play top seed and defending champion Alexander Hamilton in a semifinal at 3 or 4:45 p.m. Tuesday.
This is Keio’s third consecutive trip to the County Center. Last year, it lost to Hamilton in the championship game.
“That has been the girls’ goal since day one,” Loeb said. “And when we break after practice, we say, ‘County Center.’”
When the team met on the first day of practice in November, he showed the girls the tape of the 2012 championship game. Loeb wanted the new players to get a feel of what the team experienced at the County Center.
Senior Mari Oki along with juniors Sae Toyomura, Marina Kokuba and Masako Iizuka returned to the starting lineup this year for Loeb. Freshman Marina Kofukugawa completed the starting five.
Keio began playing its best basketball as the postseason arrived. The Unicorns closed out the regular season with a four-game winning streak.
“During our four-game winning streak I saw a lot of improvement in the girls and the way they were running our offense,” Loeb said. “I couldn’t be more proud of the girls. I am one happy coach right now.
“I know the girls are super excited about going, especially the seniors, who have been on the team for three years. It’s also great for our students because they love going and watching our girls play.”
Kokuba led Keio with 14 points and Oki added 10 points and five assists. Toyomura finished with six points, 12 rebounds and seven steals.
Defending champ Tuckahoe defeated Keio, 62-44, in a Section 1 Class C Boys championship quarterfinal. Fumiaki Kobayashi led Keio with 16 points and Harayoshi Karube added 12.