HONESDALE - Dave Patrisso spent a decade coaching freshmen girls basketball at Honesdale.
This winter, he was given a chance to take over the junior high girls team at Damascus ... a chance he jumped at for several reasons.
"Well, I live there and teach there, so it was an easy decision," said Coach Patrisso. "This is my first year, but I'm loving it already. The kids are great and so much fun to work with."
While at the helm in Honesdale, Coach Patrisso guided his Lady Hornets to a pair of District Two championship games in three years. Hoops fans in northern Wayne County are hopeful their new skipper will bring that type of success to Damascus. And, on Monday afternoon, the Lady Demons took a major step forward at archrival Honesdale.
Using balanced scoring, high-pressure defense and a deadly fastbreak, Damascus rallied from an early deficit to post an electrifying 24-22 win.
"I have to be honest with you: If you had seen us play our first game, you'd never believe we could come here and beat Honesdale," Coach Patrisso said. "The improvement has just been astonishing."
With this victory, Damascus pushed its overall record to 3-5 on the young season. Next up for the young Lady Demons is a Wednesday home game against Forest City. Opening tip for that one is slated for 4 p.m.
"I really didn't think we'd be looking this good after eight games," Coach Patrisso said. "The girls are working very hard and I can't wait to see what they have in store for me the next eight games."
On Monday at Lakeside Elementary, Honesdale raced out to a solid lead after one quarter.
Courtney Varcoe paced the Lady Hornets assault, powering her way to a team-best 10 points. She was aided and abetted by Sarah Keast, who chipped in with six and Alyssa Jennings, who added four.
Page 2 of 3 - Trailing 10-6, Damascus surged back to tie the score at intermission. Sierra Rutledge directed the offense from her point guard position, earning high marks from her mentor in the process.
"Sierra has to do a little bit of everything for us," Coach Patrisso said. "She started off the season playing in the post and she has some great moves there. But, for us to be successful and protect the ball, Sierra needs to be out front."
His point is well-taken. Damascus turned the ball over a staggering 30 times in each of its first two games. On Monday at Lakeside, that number shriveled to just 13.
Rutledge finished up with six points and five assists.
Defensively, Rachel Musetti has been the Lady Demon ringleader. A lightning-quick guard with uncanny instincts for the ball, Musetti racked up an eye-popping total of 23 steals in just the past two games.
Against Honesdale, she translated her steals into baskets winding up with a team-high 10 points.
"Rachel has been playing extremely well at both ends of the floor," Coach Patrisso said. "She is absolutely all over the place. Rachel is our defensive leader and a very well-rounded player."
Down to the Wire
Damascus edged out to a 2-point lead after three quarters and upped that advantage to four midway through the fourth.
Shelby Card and Emma Lawson each came through with clutch plays down the stretch, helping the Lady Demons to a razor-thin win.
Card picked the perfect moment to ratchet up her offense, rattling home both of her baskets as time wound down in regulation. Shelby picked off a pass and drove to the hoop for her first bucket, then used a beautiful pump fake and runner in the lane to put Damascus ahead to stay.
Lawson also contributed a big second half deuce and played solid defense down the stretch.
Page 3 of 3 - "It all starts with those two girls," Coach Patrisso said with a big smile. "Shelby and Emma are always hustling. They dive on the floor for loose balls and never give an inch."
Kiara Mayers rounded out the Lady Demon scoring with three points.
Score by Quarters...
DAM (3-5) 6 6 6 6 - 24
HON (2-3) 10 2 4 6 - 22