Lexi Martins hit three free throws in the final 1:40 and three-time defending state champion Irvington withstood a late rally by Oneonta to go on to win the Class B state semifinal 55-53 at Hudson Valley Community College Friday.
The Bulldgos (22-2) go for their fourth straight state title when they face Section 5 champ Waterloo Saturday at 4 p.m.
Irvington held a 12-point lead in the third quarter but the Yellowjackets (20-2), led by junior point guard Mariah Ruff’s 26 points, rallied to tie the game 50-50 with 1:40 left.
Irvington made four free throws — two each by Martins and Alyssa DiCampli — before Ruff drilled a 3 to pull Oneonta within 54-53 with 22.5 seconds left.
The Lehigh-bound Martins, who had 18 points, 20 rebounds and thre blocks, responded with another free throw to put Irvington up 55-53 with eight seconds left. The Yellowjackets missed a layup and putback as time expired.
“(Oneonta) had confidence, which is what you need to play here,” said Brittni Lai, who led the Bulldogs with 20 points. “They started hitting all of their shots and they really knew how to get through our defense. Once that started, they built momentum. Luckily, we won.”
The Bulldogs sealed the win without the Marist-bound Lai, a senior point guard, who was on the bench after fouling out with three minutes left.
“Once we pulled that one out I went over to (Lai) and said ‘You can never do that to us again,’ ” Martins said. “Playing in tough games is fun but it’s hard. Brittni really leads our team in so many ways and to not have her on the floor for the last three minutes of the game was really difficult.”
Oneonta led 12-5 midway though the first quarter before a Lai 3-pointer ignited a 7-0 run and Irvington continued to roll, leading 29-16 at halftime.
Irvington’s last loss came to Ossining on Feb. 11 and the Bulldogs have won their five contests since by an average of 34.6 points.
“I think we got a little bit tight,” Irvington coach Gina Maher said. “Rather than play to win, we were playing not to lose. That hurt us. And then in the end, we did some smart things.”
Irvington topped Oneonta in the 2010 state final, the first of its current run of three straight state titles.
“To beat a team like Oneonta is huge,” Maher said. “They are as good as any of the other Class B teams that I have seen.”