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Horace Mann eyes Ivy League crown

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As the first half ended in Horace Mann’s road game at neighborhood rival Fieldston, things were just a little too close for comfort with a tighter-than-expected 14-point lead.

So the Lions did what they seem to do with great regularity — they opened up the offense, clamped down on defense, and seemed to grab every loose ball the rest of the way. And in the process, the Lions ran away from Fieldston, rolling to a 55-22 victory.

The win boosted Horace Mann’s record to 14-3, keeping alive hopes of an Ivy League championship.

“We came out a little slow to start the game, then we regrouped and we held (Fieldston) to nine points in the second half,” Horace Mann coach Ray Barile said. “That’s who we are.”

The game was pretty much decided in the third quarter when the Lions broke open a game they led just 27-13 at the intermission, using a suffocating 20-2 run in the third to open a 47-15 advantage. The Lions simply coasted from there.

“We average giving up 31 points a game, and we’re scoring 55 to 56,” Barile said. “This is the highest-scoring team I’ve ever coached. We have a lot of girls who can shoot, and four or five girls who can really shoot the three and shoot it well. Ella Anthony gets to the rim all the time. Halley Robbins can go inside and outside. And one of my senior captains, Jane Frankel, is just a great three-point shooter.”

Frankel drained a pair of clutch threes in the third and scored eight straight points for the Lions as they began to pull away. With Horace Mann up by 32 to open the final quarter, Barile emptied his bench and gave his starters the rest of the game off.

“Defense is what we really rely on to ground us,” Frankel said. “So if we’re at halftime and we didn’t have a great half, coach is like, ‘What are we known for? We’re known for our defense.’ And that just gets our heads back in the game. We can always rely on playing super-hard defense, and we know our shots will fall eventually.”

Horace Mann now faces a final two weeks of the regular season in which they will square off against rivals Hackley, Poly Prep and Dalton with an Ivy League championship hanging in the balance. The Lions knocked off Hackley 48-24 in their first meeting Dec. 20. But the real prize for Horace Mann will be if they can secure wins over Poly Prep on Feb. 12, and at Dalton on Valentine’s Day. 

“We’re excited about next week,” Barile said, adding he’s happy with the way his Lions are playing of late. The victory over Fieldston means Horace Mann has won 10 of its last 11 games. It’s a string of hot play that could carry the Lions across the finish line.

“That would mean a lot,” Frankel said. “Dalton and Poly, they’re always the biggest games. We’ve fallen short the past couple of years but, honestly, they are some of the most fun games to play because we both want it so badly. And they come out with the same intensity that we do.”

But if the Ivy title doesn’t work out, there’s always the New York State Association of Independent Schools tournament that runs Feb. 21-24. The Lions reached the quarterfinals in last season’s tourney before being bounced by Poly Prep.

“I’m honestly so proud of this team no matter what,” Frankel said. “It’s been an amazing four years on this team, and I’m having an amazing senior year. These girls have given every single thing they have all season, and my co-seniors and I, we couldn’t have asked for a better team to end it off with.”

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