Possibly the most telling statistic that came out of Harpursville’s Class C girls basketball semifinal against Hoosic Valley: Offensive rebounding. The Indians came up with 15 to Harpursville’s four, a disparity that factored greatly into the Rensselaer County team’s 55-44 victory.
Hoosic Valley’s aggressiveness to the basketball frequently resulted in follow-up goals, free throws earned or second life for a possession that would have been squelched had Harpursville defenders positioned themselves to snare and clear the ball. Coupled with the Indians’ characteristically sound defense and penchant for the timely 3-point goal, it was a championship formula.
“Their defense was great, as advertised,” Hornets coach Kurt Ehrensbeck said. “But I think we got beat to every loose ball in the first half, they got every rebound. I told them, I love those girls like they’re my daughters but they got outplayed, they got outhustled.
“That’s going to happen– we just waited until Game 24 to see that happen.”
It was Harpursville’s first loss since falling by 54-44 to Rochester’s Bishop Kearney in last season’s state final.
Indians coach Walt Dorman said: “We always rebound well. We always believe four girls go to the boards unless they’re going to get a layup. They got one layup or two but it was off a rebound and we didn’t pick the ball up. I didn’t feel like we needed to send two girls back. We just let them all go to the hoop– go get it! We’ve done that all year.”
Another contributing factor was the Indians’ offensive patience when playing with the lead. Repeatedly they would go deep into the shot clock yet still come up with a high-grade attempt.
“If they were going to sit in a zone, we knew that we were going to get a quality shot off,” Dorman said. “So when they stayed in zone I knew that we were going to kill clock, because I knew we were going to get the same shot whether it was at the beginning or the end of the 30 seconds. That’s why we ran it that way.”
Asked how he would remember this group that closed with a 23-1 record after spending the season atop state rankings, Ehrensbeck said: “I don’t want to sound corny but, they were about believing that they can be better every day. I thought they were better than the sum of their parts for most of the season.”
M-E girls cool after start
Following an 18-point opening quarter in Friday’s Class A semifinal, Maine-Endwell’s girls appeared poised to make a second consecutive appearance in the state title game.
But after taking a nine-point lead into the second period, the Spartans were limited to 21 points thereafter and fell to Pittsford Sutherland, 43-39.
Six M-E players had a hand in those 18 first-quarter points, and the Spartans’ defense clearly had the opponent from suburban Rochester flustered.
“We knew what was coming. We knew they were going to put a tremendous amount of pressure on the ball handler,” Sutherland coach Dan Judd said. “We had 14 turnovers in the first half, which is uncharacteristic for us. We average 11 a game.
“But to be down only three at the half with all those turnovers and we weren’t shooting it good at all, I that built some confidence for us.”
The Spartans led 24-21 at halftime despite mustering two second-quarter field goals, and brought a 35-31 advantage into the fourth. M-E’s final points of the season were scored with 4:30 remaining.
One critical play came when with 6.4 seconds remaining after M-E misfired on a quality 3-point attempt. Inbounding from in front of M-E’s bench, Sutherland’s Holly Turner passed deep down the floor to 6-foot-1 Santita Ebangwese (17 points, 12 rebounds) one-on-one with the deepest M-E defender. Ebangwese made the reception and drove to the basket for two and a 43-39 lead with 3.5 seconds left.
“You generally call those 50-50 balls but with Santita they’re 90-10, she’ll get 90 percent of them,” Judd said. “And we felt like even if we turned it over right there, there’s six seconds left, it’s deep in their end, we have a foul to give– we had a lot of things working in our favor.
“The last thing we wanted to do is turn it over in the backcourt and give them a chance to score off a deflection, which they are really good at.”
Of his team’s difficulty scoring after the first quarter, M-E coach Sonny Spera said: “They’re physical, they get into you when you’ve got the ball. A lot of body, a lot of banging. We had opportunities, I thought we had some decent looks. Just didn’t execute some things that I thought we could have but give them credit. I think defensively, they’re that good.”
Spera, who will relinquish the varsity coaching post after nine seasons, fought through emotion postgame to size up what his team accomplished.
“I tried to tell them, you were part of something special. You put every ounce of your being into a team,” he said. “And while you want your result to obviously turn out better, you gave everything –and that’s why it hurt so much. When you give it everything you’ve got and you come up short, that’s hard, it’s a tough pill to swallow.”
Tornado worthy of No. 2
Here’s a strong case for Norwich’s boys to conclude the season with a No. 2 state ranking:
Syracuse Westhill, the team Norwich took to overtime before dropping a three-point quarterfinal decision, claimed the Class B championship with a 93-55 rout of Olean. That was after posting a 74-67 semifinal win over Ogdensburg Free Academy.
“Just the fact that we played the last three games against really good caliber teams like (Utica) Notre Dame and Norwich — I think those two teams could easily have been here and had the same kind of game,” Warriors coach Kevin King told a Syracuse Post-Standard reporter. “We didn’t get challenged that many times this year so it was nice that we had that experience.”
In the final, Jordan Roland’s 41 points included 32 before halftime, and his seven 3-point goals fell one shy of the state tournament record established by Charlie Wightman of Norwich in 1993. Tyler Reynolds added 38 points (27 after halftime) for the Warriors, who collectively made good on 14 of 21 3-pointers.
Odds & ends
Green Tech High, an Albany charter school, claimed the Class AA boys championship with a 54-49 win over Jamestown, after defeating Brentwood (Long Island) 54-49 in the semifinal. On Feb. 8 on its home floor, Green Tech fell by 52-51 to Maine-Endwell. …
Utica Notre Dame’s girls, six-point quarterfinal winners over Oneonta, wrapped up the Class B title with a 71-36 romp past Rochester’s Bishop Kearney. The Jugglers’ Emily Durr scored 29 in that one, leaving her a Section 3-record 2,389 points– 22 better than present UConn scoring leader and American Athletic Conference Player of the Year Breanna Stewart. …
New York Mills’ boys completed a 23-1 season with a 57-50 win over Coleman Catholic (Ulster County) for the Class D championship. That made for a 16-game Marauders win streak since losing to Norwich in the STOP-DWI Holiday Classic. …
Red Hook’s boys, blistering hot from the perimeter in an opening-round win over Maine-Endwell, shot 19-for-60 in a 57-45 semifinal loss to East High of Rochester. …
Pittsford Sutherland’s girls followed a semifinal win over M-E by defeating Jamesville-DeWitt 57-41 in the Class A final. …
Ossining’s girls topped Cicero-North Syracuse 74-59 for the Class AA championship, led by sophomore Shadeen Samuels’ 31 points. The title was earned by a team that has nary a senior on its roster.