Call it a surprisingly smooth path to victory for Harpursville’s girls, who on Saturday made it two Section 4 Class C basketball championships in a three-season span.
Miranda Drummond’s 27 points headed the Hornets in a 60-36 dismantling of Unatego at the Broome County Veterans Memorial Arena.
Against an opponent they’d fallen to twice this season, the Hornets’ lead was of the two-digit variety for the first time in the opening quarter and for keeps over the final 17 1-2 minutes.
Ahead for Harpursville (18-3) is a state quarterfinal against Cooperstown (20-2) set for 1 p.m. Saturday at SUNY-Oneonta.
“We got into our game instead of playing their game. We got in our own flow and we did our thing,” said senior guard Savannah Murray, who scored 10 Harpursville points.
“We made smarter decisions with the ball and as a team just played together.”
Oh, and Arena savvy may have factored in.
Saturday marked Harpursville’s third consecutive appearance in the final. Unatego hadn’t appeared in the title game in decades.
“We know it’s a hard place to shoot in sometimes and it’s just a whole experience that we’re used to,” said Hornets coach Kurt Ehrensbeck, whose blueprint called for _ and resulted in _ a whole lot of layups that can be converted in any building.
Rebound-and-run was the recurring theme for the Hornets, who repeatedly beat Unatego up the floor for transition goals. Spearheading the fast break was junior forward Drummond, not only the leading scorer on the floor but the finest athlete and least guardable player.
“We knew they were going to double-team the defensive rebound to keep us from running, so we talked to Miranda about ripping the ball over the top and getting up the middle of the floor,” Ehrensbeck said. “Or, power dribbles to the side and run the break up the sidelines_ and we were able to do both at times.”
Either way, Harpursville’s advantage in speed and mobility was the difference from outset through conclusion.
Four scorers contributed to a 16-7 Harpursville advantage through a quarter, and it was 33-21 midway through. At halftime, Drummond had 13 points and rapidly improving sophomore Shelby Medovich 10 of her 13.
Try as they might, the Spartans were unable to cope with Drummond in the open court.
Three minutes into play she handled from end-to-end only to feed Medovich for a goal to make it 8-0. To close first-quarter scoring, Drummond snared a defensive rebound and handled into the forecourt on a sequence Murray finished with a layup.
A one-gal fast break _ Drummond rebounding, dribbling the distance, finishing and tacking on a free throw _ had the Hornets up by 21-9 early in the second.
A tricky mid lane-to-block feed from Drummond to Tatianna Sosnowsky made for a goal and 29-15 lead.
Drummond opened second-half scoring by banging a 3-pointer, and Medovich added a three over Unatego’s zone next trip down courtesy of high-quality ball movement.
A left elbow-to-right block pass from Murray set up Holly Henry for an easy one and a 45-27 Hornets advantage with 3 1-2 minutes remaining in the third quarter.
As the game unfolded, it became increasingly apparent that Harpursville was going to be productive whether on the run or out of a half-court set.
“We made some great interior passes to kids who usually don’t score,” Ehrensbeck said. “We’ve got Miranda scoring 22 a game and Savannah scoring 17, but we spread it out pretty good today. We tried to look for where the possible weakness would be and tried to attack that.”
Of the Hornets’ winning defensive game plan, Murray said: “Box out, rebound, don’t let them get 2-3 opportunities each time down the court.”
Said Ehrensbeck: “We’re playing state-level type defense right now. We’re physical, where we haven’t most of the year.”
Three players scored eight points apiece for Unatego.
The next test for Harpursville is a Cooperstown squad whose lone losses have been dealt by Class B foes, and who feature a freshman guard named MVP of the Section 3 tournament.