It couldn't have been more apparent Friday night, as the Lakeland Hornets avenged a loss against league rival Carmel.
If Tori Jarosz is Jordan, Kristin Pappalardo has got to be Pippen.
That may seem a bit far-fetched to y’all, albeit Jarosz' game-altering second half eruption was akin to Jumpman23.
Jorosz smooth second half supremacy provided the mammoth momentum-shift, changing the course of the contest while simultaneously lifting Lakeland to a 54-43 statement victory.
Jarosz, a 6-foot-4 forward headed to a major Division-I hardwood home in Vanderbilt, pierced the Rams’ heart in the second half. She reeled off a personal 8-0 run, shredding the teeth of the Rams' defense for 12 third-quarter points as the senior stalwart was rendered unguardable.
Jarosz had been hampered by a balky ankle which kept her out of action when the two teams last met on Jan.14, a 55-42 Rams dubya.
With Jarosz favoring the ankle, the show keys were suddenly funneled down to Pappalardo, a senior combo guard.
This Jan.14 matchup--which would have been a barometer battle had Jarosz played-- demanded Pappalardo shoot and attack the tin more, pound the ball into the post less.
She scorched the nets to the tune of 26 points and scored the rock in a variety of ways, albeit in losing fashion.
Her scoring spree continued, as “Pops” took buckets matters into her own hands with the Hornets’ go-to player sidelined.
She hung 20 on Brewster in a 50-38 caper. Pappalardo fired more shots, dropping another 20 points during an end-to-end 55-36 trouncing of crosstown rival Yorktown.
Jarosz and Pappalardo have been running mates for quite some time now, dating back to their rec league team in fifth grade.
Since then, they’ve been on a co-existing course, evolving into an inside-outside tandem for the county to reckon with.
They’ve steered the Class A pressure cooker, helping the Hornets surface as one of Section I's elite.
Now, the two captains shoulder the tag of foundation for longtime coach Steve Fallo's Hornets, which has lofty expectations of a return trip to the County Center, with a glistening gold ball to boot.
“We know where each other is on the court,” said Pappalardo. “We know each other’s (game).
Pappalardo's blink-quick evolution as a scoring threat helped Poughkeepsie-based Triple Threat on the AAU circuit this summer.
The squad was without a legit interior presence and lacked height.
Not to worry.
Pappalardo took scoring matters into her own hands.
“They needed me to play the (scoring) role more on Triple Threat,” explained Pappalardo.
It paid dividends when Jarosz was nicked up and the Hornets did everything but hit the panic button.
“We all had to basically step up (during Tori’s absence), keep the intensity that Tori brings. We had to make up for her not being here, so we had to make up the points. So I stepped up, being co-captain it came (with the territory)."
So the Hornets, just as Triple-Threat did over the summer, relied on Pappalardo for buckets by the bushels output. The combo guard embraced that aspect of her game and began manufacturing offense and dialing in from downtown.
Her ability to dictate the tempo and impose her will was evident Friday, as she scored nine first-half points with the heavily-hyped, frontier matchup between Jarosz and Carmel’s Brittany Horne taking a back seat before Jarosz dominated the second half...
She pounded the ball into the post and fed her All-State center, serving as the ying to her yang. She injected a brand of swagger and show-running leadership that kept the Rams in trail mode.
Pappalardo picked up her fourth foul at a crucial moment Friday, as soon as Carmel crept back into the contest. After being relegated to the bench, she let off some frustration before regaining composure.
Minutes after she checked back into the game, Pappalardo tore through the teeth of Carmel’s defense and threw up a circus shot that found the bottom of the net. She absorbed a foul, crashing to the ground (along with the jaws of the bi-partisan crowd at Lakeland High School).
“That felt good,” said Pappalardo, who stayed above the law when she returned to the game, helping seal the door shut and avenge the loss against Carmel.
"My adrenaline was rushing. It made my intensity pump up more and I just wanted to win it at the end, so much more."
For every Beth Hickey, there's been a Jackie Ferrari, for those readers who remember the Dobbs Ferry dynasty of the early 2000s. For every Kareem, there's a Magic. For every Ewing, there's a gully, grinding, tough-as-nails guard like John Starks (for those of you who remember that bar room brawling Knicks team of the early to mid-90s).
Even Cori Chambers, who re-wrote the record books at Ursuline before authoring a storied stay at the University of Georgia and playing professionally, had a running mate. You can't do it all yourself.
If Jarosz is Jordan, Pappalardo has got to be Pippen.