PINE PLAINS – Tears flowed as the lights dimmed and the applause provided a soundtrack inside the Stissing Mountain High School gymnasium.
It was Senior Night for the Pine Plains girls basketball team and, not surprisingly, emotions were high as the three 12th-graders on the squad reflected on their careers — the highs and lows.
Frances Snyder, Ashley Starzyk and Tia Fumasoli were honored in a pre-game ceremony before going on to lead the team in a 79-38 rout of visiting Ellenville.
None of those players appeared more moved than Fumasoli. The guard became choked up as her name was called during introductions.
That this was only her second game of the season was, perhaps, the lowest of those lows. The senior had missed 11 months of athletics after suffering a concussion during the state Class C basketball final last March. What followed was a hellacious ordeal in recovery, one that affected her academically and wiped out the softball and soccer seasons, almost cost her basketball as well.
So a return the court, a return to normalcy — finally — would certainly conjure emotions.
“I thought I’d never play basketball again and last year was it,” said Fumasoli, who played sparingly in her season debut last week against Onteora. “Being back on my home court and being part of a moment like this was special.”
What followed will undoubtedly be considered one of those highpoints.
Fumasoli exploded for 12 of her 22 points in the second quarter and put on a shooting showcase that included four high-arching rainbow threes. The crowd roared with delight each time she touched the ball, and often cheered even more loudly after she released it. They understood the significance.
Snyder’s nine first-quarter points helped stake Pine Plains to a 23-7 lead. They pulled away in the second quarter, and Fumasoli’s two free throws made it 60-22 with 3:13 left in the third.
Snyder had a game-high 26 points and four assists to lead the Bombers (11-5). Ashley Starzyk added three points, 13 rebounds and three blocks. Her younger sister, Bella Starzyk, had 14 points and 10 rebounds, and Meghan Murray scored eight points.
Pine Plains will face Spackenkill in the first round of the Mid-Hudson Athletic League tournament next Tuesday, before entering the Section 9 Class C playoffs as a favorite.
That senior core — “The Big 3” as they were tabbed during a video tribute — has led Pine Plains to two consecutive appearances in the state final four. The quest, of course, is to go a step farther. The team for most of this season feared it might have to do that without one of its stars.
“I’m back,” Fumasoli said with a grin. “I feel OK physically and, aside from the nerves, I feel good mentally. I’m ready.”
At long last.
Stephen Haynes: firstname.lastname@example.org, 845-437-4826, Twitter: @StephenHaynes4