In the opening round of last season's Section 1 Class A tournament, John Jay walked into a raucous Peekskill gym as the No. 9 seed and upset the Red Devils.
Three starters return from that squad, which lost to eventual champion Pearl River, with a desire to secure a Westchester County Center berth.
Gritty efforts like Thursday's 41-33 win over visiting Somers are crucial for the 11-7 Indians, who are among several teams playing with confidence in the Class A landscape.
"(Somers) wanted to knock us off as league champs because they could have tied with us," John Jay senior center Sarah Lang said. "That was a game of heart and a game like that will prepare us for a game at the County Center, for sure."
Lang led the Indians with 15 points and Delaney Spencer added 10 points, including a third-quarter layup that gave the Indians a 30-22 lead, its largest of the game to that point.
Lang and forward Sydney Glenn gave John Jay a rebounding advantage that it largely failed to convert into points early on, including a first-quarter possession in which the Indians launched five shots before connecting.
Somers led 17-10 late in the second quarter before the Indians closed the first half on a 7-0 run highlighted by a lunging 3-pointer from Lang at the buzzer.
Under first-year coach Kristi Dini, the 9-8 Tuskers have led at halftime in five of their eight losses this season.
"We played one really strong half and then let up," Somers sophomore Nicole DeMase said. "We're having a lot of trouble scoring a lot of points in the second half. We have to make sure that at halftime we stay strong and don't let the opponent back in the game."
Dini, a 2005 Putnam Valley grad that played collegiately at Boston University, leads a Somers squad that starts a freshman, two sophomores and two juniors.
"Kristi (Dini) is very demanding, she wants the best from everyone," DeMase said. "She's a great coach. She's done a great job with us and I think we are going to be really, really good next year and the year after."
DeMase scored nine points and Emma Schurr added seven points.
The Indians have played an arduous schedule that has included matchups with Arlington, Lourdes and John Jay-East Fishkill.
The Indians are counting on this season's strength of schedule paying dividends come seeding time.