Video from this one, Oneonta’s sixth consecutive success in a Section 4 girls basketball title game, will assuredly not be preserved in any time capsule for future Yellowjackets to admire.
Rather, Saturday’s eyesore of a 41-33 victory over Seton Catholic Central was the quintessence of “survive and advance” — which the ‘Jackets (19-1) did to earn space opposite Utica Notre Dame in a Class B state quarterfinal.
That’ll be 4 p.m. Saturday at Onondaga Community College, where New York’s second-ranked Class B squad will need to markedly elevate its level of execution to maintain hopes of a final four berth.
Christy O’Neil scored 13 points and Lauren Miller 10 for the Saints (14-5), who with three minutes remaining were within four points of the ‘Jackets. That’s right, the very squad that claimed a 56-29 win Jan. 8 on Seminary Avenue.
“That’s the toughest man-to-man defense that we’ve seen,” Oneonta coach Matt Miller said. ” … That was not a team that we were going to beat by 27 points today. They made it more difficult for our point guard, Mariah Ruff, than anybody has this entire year. They took us out of our offensive rhythm.”
Indeed it was the roughest of outings for Ruff, who may or may not have established a personal season high for turnovers and season low for shooting percentage.
Her 14 points topped all scorers, yet Section 4’s finest freely acknowledged that she’d not played to near her standard
“They were all over you and we couldn’t really get a flow going,” she said of the Saints’ defense. “When we did, something else happened to break that up. I had a lot of turnovers which obviously I’m not happy about, but my teammates picked me up, made free throws when they needed to, made big shots when they needed to.”
And accentuate “when they needed to,” because the Yellowjackets were a collective 18-for-36 — with Ruff the primary culprit at 5-for-13.
She coaxed a smile when referencing an early stint spent benched with two fouls: “They played great without me, I thought they played better than they did with me. Maybe Mr. Miller should have kept me out a little longer.”
The game was largely decided in a stretch of 8:40 or so bridging the first and second halves, during which Oneonta transformed a 14-9 deficit into a 28-17 lead. Seven of those 19 Yellowjackets points came from Ruff and six from forward Natalie Vanderlaan-Myering.
Kelsey Baker was a steadying force for Oneonta with 11 points, and Vanderlaan-Meyering finished with eight.
Oneonta brought a 30-21 lead into a disjointed final quarter in which 20 free throws were attempted, 10 per side. The Saints drew within 32-28 when Molly Martin cashed a pair from the line with 3:04 remaining.
But Oneonta, despite playing the final 6:20 without a field goal, had enough to put it away against a Seton CC squad that logged one two-pointer over the closing 71/2 minutes. That was a deep 3-pointer from Miller that made it 37-31 with 68 seconds remaining.
“I have to credit Seton Catholic Central. I wasn’t really expecting this competitive of a game, but those kids, they play hard,” Miller said.
The Yellowjackets’ next challenge will be a Utica Notre Dame team that dealt reigning champion South Jefferson its first loss of the season in Section 3’s title game to improve to a 14-5 record.
Looking ahead to that one, and specifically Ruff’s anticipated role, Miller said: “She’s a tough kid, I don’t second-guess her going into the next game. She forgets very easily, she’ll respond.”