The first sign it was going to be a long day for the Trinity girls basketball team was when the Tigers lined up for the opening tip against Horace Mann.
That’s when things usually begin to go south for all of Horace Mann’s opponents this season, and Trinity was no different.
The Lions — the best-kept sports secret in Riverdale these days — have been equal parts dominant and merciless since beginning their season with a 71-10 victory over Berkeley Carroll last November. Trinity was just one of the latest in a long list of hapless opponents mauled by the Lions as Ella Anthony scored 28 points and Julia Robbins added 17 in Horace Mann’s never-in-doubt 73-26 victory over Trinity last Wednesday.
The Lions, the second-ranked Class B team in the state, then added yet another lopsided victory Friday afternoon thumping Holy Child 56-31 to run their season mark to 15-1.
But none of this — not the dominant wins, the overpowering performances or the current 10-game winning streak — has come as a surprise to Anthony.
“I knew we had the potential to be a championship team this year,” said Anthony, whose 28 points were six more than Trinity scored as a team. “We just had to put in some more work and take this season a lot more seriously than last season.”
Horace Mann advanced to the semifinals of the New York State Association of Independent Schools tournament last season.
Unfortunately for Trinity, Horace Mann was dead serious right from the opening tip. The Lions started the game with an 18-0 run, led 22-4 at the end of the first quarter, and held a commanding 40-12 lead at intermission. If Trinity thought the Lions would call off the dogs in the second half, it was sadly mistaken as they continued to dive for loose balls, crash into walls chasing errant rebounds, and play relentless defense as their lead swelled to 62-22 at the end of three quarters. Game over.
It’s that take-no-prisoners attitude that has brought the Lions to this point this season.
“Never play down to your competition,” Robbins said. “We’ve played a lot of games where the other team was maybe a level down from us in terms of their ability. So we’ve had to push ourselves not to play to their level, but to play our best and to keep improving every single game. If we didn’t play as well as we could just because the other team is not that great, then we wouldn’t be doing justice to our own team.”
One of the core reasons for the Lions’ success comes down to one word.
“I think it’s trust,” said Anthony, who entered this week 25 points shy of 1,000 in her career. “We all have a lot of trust in one another. We all practice our plays in practice constantly, and we all have faith that our teammates can make the right play. So I always feel comfortable passing it to Julia because I know she’ll make the right decision, and that’s how I feel about everyone else on the team.”
Robbins echoed Anthony’s sentiments.
“I don’t think we could have predicted how well our team would play,” Robbins said. “But we know how each other are as players and as people, so we do have that trust, which has really helped our team.”
Anthony also points to the leadership of long-time head coach Ray Barile as being a driving force behind the Lions’ success.
“Coach Barile is the best coach in the league, and I think a lot of people would say that,” Anthony said. “The amount he cares for this team, I’ve never seen anything like it. He is so devoted to helping our team and bringing our team together, and I think that’s amazing. That’s part of what has gotten us this far.”
With a veteran coach and three superlative core players, a special season is unfolding at Horace Mann this season.
“The three juniors we have here — Ella, Julia and Halley (Robbins, Julia’s twin sister) — they’re special players,” Barile said.
“Ella has really elevated her game from last year. She can shoot, she can score, she can pass, she can finish. Julia can shoot the three and take it to the hoop, and Halley is so special. She’s so little, but did you see all the rebounds she gets? They’re terrific players.”
It’s a group that just may be on its way to where no Lions team has gone before.
“The last Ivy League title we won was 21 years ago, and we’ve never won the NYSAIS,” Barile said. “But if we do what we’re capable of doing, we could win it this year.”