Oneonta’s girls wiped away a 14-point fourth-quarter deficit, only to yield the game’s final six points in a 50-44 loss to Utica Notre Dame in Saturday’s Class B state basketball quarterfinal at Binghamton University.
Senior guard Mariah Ruff scored 11 of her game-best 22 points in the final quarter for the top-ranked Yellowjackets, who finished with an 18-3 record.
Emily Durr’s 18-points included four of the game’s final five — all from the free throw line — for second-ranked Notre Dame (20-3), which advances to the final four at Hudson Valley Community College in Troy on Friday.
Jaclyn Hajec converted Durr’s wing-to-opposite-block feed into a goal for that 39-25 advantage 25 seconds into the final quarter. Oneonta’s first three possessions of the period brought a giveaway and two misfired shots.
And so, time for the Jugglers to feel a bit at-ease?
“Not at all. I did not feel comfortable,” Notre Dame coach Michael Plonisch said. “I just wanted to make sure that our girls still needed to play defense. Because once you take a break, they’re going to make you pay.”
“When it was 39-25, we knew there was a whole fourth quarter. Oneonta, in their last game against Norwich, they scored 22 points in a row. They’re a very good team, a competitive team, well-coached.”
And, their featured player was not about to pack it in.
Ruff flushed a 3-pointer and a jump shot from the wing — both off a sure-handed dribble — in a span of 21 seconds and the Yellowjackets were within 39-30.
Then, 15 seconds apart, Madison Miller made her way into the lane for a running hook and Ruff struck from tight range off a steal and the gap was down to 41-34 with 3:45 remaining.
After Durr found teammate Anari Haris cutting to the rim for a bucket, Ruff bagged two free throws and Miller added another close one and it was 43-40 with 2:02 to play.
With 71 seconds to play, Oneonta’s Brie Baker was dared to have a go from 17 feet on the baseline — and she obliged successfully. Following a timeout, Ruff transformed a Notre Dame turnover near midcourt into a rush to the rim for points and a 44-all tie with 55 seconds remaining.
Notre Dame went up by 45-44 on a free throw by Alexia Patterson with 50.7 seconds to play, and Oneonta followed by turning the ball over. But Ruff sprinted back to thwart a layup by Harris and subsequently draw a foul in the backcourt. But she was off the mark from the line with 39.8 seconds remaining
From that juncture, Durr was 4-for-6 from the line and Katie Buschmann 1-for-2 to tuck it away for the Jugglers.
“When you go up you kind of get a lot of nerves,” said Durr, who will move on to play for Iowa State University. “We know Oneonta’s a great team, we knew they were going to fight back. That’s why we wanted to build a lead, we knew they were going to come back, especially with a player like Mariah Ruff they were going to make a run.
“We had a couple turnovers here and there, got down on each other. But we picked ourselves up and we finished well.”
It was with Durr assuming the role of facilitator that Notre Dame flipped a one-point halftime deficit into a 12-point advantage to begin the fourth.
The Jugglers went ahead 26-24 on a 3-point push from the wing by Harris, Durr dribbled into a 3-pointer from the top to make it 29-24, Hajec hit another 3 from low on the left wing and Harris accepted Durr’s feed in the corner to make it four consecutive makes from outside the arc. Patterson closed third-quarter scoring with a mid-range shot from the wing and it was 37-25.
“I’ve been on varsity for five years, so I knew they were going to have a lot of girls coming at me,” Durr said. “I have tremendous confidence in my teammates to knock down shots. Anari Harris made two huge 3s, Jaclyn Hajec made a 3. I just had so much confidence in them to make to make the shot when we needed it.”
“Em’s our decision-maker, she’s going to look to go and make the right decisions,” Plonisch said. “When she’s a distributor, I think that makes her more dangerous, because now they’ve got to pay attention to everybody else. … She made the right decisions by finding Anari and Jaclyn for a couple of three’s.”
Oneonta, Section 4 champion for a seventh consecutive season, scored the game’s first nine points and led 22-21 at the midway point.