EAST LANSING — Pittsford couldn’t afford to forget.
It couldn’t afford a repeat.
It couldn’t afford to let up.
Leading by 20 points at the end of the third quarter, thanks to a bank shot jumper off the glass as the buzzer sounded by junior Jaycie Burger, the Wildcats found themselves in a very familiar position.
In last year’s Class D final, Pittsford led St. Ignace by 20 points — and ended up losing in overtime.
There was no repeat Saturday. Pittsford beat Mt. Pleasant Sacred Heart, 48-30, at the Breslin Center for the state championship.
“I think, definitely, that we kept our intensity up the entire game, and kept pressuring them the entire game,” Burger said. “Last year we were up … and we came out and our defense kind of fell apart. This year, the whole game, the whole halftime we just kept telling each other, ‘we have to keep playing defense, no stopping defense.’
“We choose to really extend the defense up … to make them make faster decisions. I know if someone’s in my shorts, it’s a lot harder for me to make decisions. So if I’m up in their shorts, it’s harder for them to make decisions, too. And I just want to make it easier for my team to score.”
Score they did. Junior Maddie Clark led Pittsford (27-0) with 23 points and 10 rebounds, while Burger added 11 points. Senior Madison Ayers chipped in eight more.
But defense was the key for Pittsford.
Sacred Heart went almost an entire quarter on the clock without scoring. Scout Nelson dropped in a three-pointer at the 5:10 mark of the second quarter and the Irish didn’t score again until Nelson sank another triple with 5:35 remaining in the third quarter. Nelson finished with nine points and all-stater Averi Gamble had 8.
“We executed our game plan of trying to neutralize (Averi) Gamble, and man, did they do a great job of that,” said Pittsford coach Chris Hodos. “Battling her all day, she’s a great player. Kudos to our girls. They battled and did what they need to win the game.”
Four-year Pittsford starter Laura Smith played 25 minutes and made two steals on defense.
“Coming here last year I was so nervous,” she said. “And we lost and it was so devastating. Then this year, when we won I didn’t know how to feel. I was so happy, but then I started crying, because it’s my last game. Basketball’s my favorite sport and I don’t want to leave these girls because they’re my best friends.
“Now we have to go separate ways, but I’m going to come back next year and watch them here again.”
Something that could surely happen.