ALBANY – Susquehanna Valley’s late-season magic finally ran out Saturday.
The Sabers were more than game in their New York State Federation tournament debut before finally wilting under Staten Island Academy’s relentless pressure in a 71-54 loss to the Tigers in a Class B girls basketball semifinal at the University at Albany’s SEFCU Arena.
Erin Nolan had 15 points and Caitlyn Knapp added 11 to lead SV (19-6), which had won the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class B title last weekend, but found that Staten Island Academy was too athletic and talented.
The Association of Independent Schools’ representative broke open a close game midway through the second quarter before ultimately seizing control with another significant surge over the opening four minutes of the third quarter.
In a fast-paced game between teams with similar styles — both teams employ full-court, man-to-man defensive pressure — SV trailed just 23-20 nearly three minutes into the second quarter following Hannah Haskell’s basket from close range.
Staten Island Academy would score the game’s next 10 points, all coming in transition following SV missed shots or turnovers. The last of those points came off a steal and layup by Sam Spadaro with 1:45 remaining in the frame that put Staten Island Academy ahead, 33-20.
The Tigers led 42-29 early in the third quarter, then outscored the Sabers 13-2 over the next 21/2 minutes to take control for good.
Staten Island Academy’s Lisa Cappiello nailed a 3-pointer from the right wing to start the stretch, one which culiminated with eight straight points — including four by Corinn Baggs — as the Tigers’ lead bulged to 55-31 with 4:02 left in the third quarter.
The Tigers would lead by as many as 30 before SV managed to make things more respectable late.
“I think right now it’s a bittersweet moment because nobody wanted it to end,” Nolan said. “But nobody can take away what we’ve done all season. That will be there forever.”
Baggs had 21 points and Spadaro 17 to lead Staten Island Academy, which was playing its first game since a 95-61 victory over Tottenville on Feb. 19.
Baggs was particularly impressive early on, scoring 17 points in the first half on 8-for-10 shooting on a mix of drives to the basket in transition and mid-range jumpers.
Despite Baggs’ fine start, the game was tight early on, as both teams traded the lead several times over the opening five minutes. SV took what would be its last lead when Shayna Lee hit a 16-footer to put the Sabers up 11-9 with 3:25 to go.
Staten Island Academy scored eight straight points, the first five by Baggs, to grab a 17-11 lead. The Sabers came back, with Lee hitting a 3-pointer at the buzzer to end the first quarter and Courtney Knapp nailing another to open the second and knot the score at 17.
However, SV’s shots stopped falling, enabling Staten Island Academy to ratchet up its transition game and eventually take command.
“We had our usual spell where we stopped hitting our jump shots, and they were able to turn our long rebounds into very, very easy baskets,” SV coach Chad Freije said. “They play great defense, they force you to play at a faster pace.”
Staten Island Academy coach Rose Bruno acknowledged SV’s style of play suited her team very well.
“My kids are very athletic and fast, and they can play fast,” Bruno said. “We were able to play with them, and we were more athletic.”
Staten Ialand Academy will face Mount St. Mary, from Tonawanda, in the championship game Sunday at 2 p.m. Mount St. Mary defeated Brooklyn College Academy 56-41 on Saturday.