NEW PALTZ – Rich Starzyk knew it. There was little he could say, as a coach, to console his team immediately after Pine Plains’ season-ending loss on Tuesday. As a father, there wasn’t much to say for standouts Ashley and Bella Starzyk, either.
“This hurts and it’s gonna hurt for a little while,” the girls basketball coach said. “It’s just gonna take time for them to cool off and maybe start reflecting.”
What likely will be reflected on is the Bombers’ run of dominance for three years, which culminated in trips to the state final four the previous two seasons.
But that run — a regional reign, really — came to an end with a 47-41 loss to Haldane High School in a Class C regional semifinal at SUNY New Paltz.
And now, Haldane will finally have its own chance to make a state-playoff run.
The Blue Devils have won the Section 1 championship four consecutive years, but were upended by Pine Plains in this round the previous two years.
“We definitely wanted redemption,” said Alzy Cinquanta, who finished with 11 points. “Our top priority was to beat Pine Plains, and it definitely worked out.”
Haldane faces the Long Island champion, Section 11’s Port Jefferson, in a regional final on Thursday, 7:30 p.m. at SUNY Old Westbury.
The Bombers knew this would be a proverbial grudge match, expected a fierce effort from Haldane, and prepared as such. But offensive droughts and last-minute blunders cost Pine Plains.
“We had our chances to win and this is a game we were confident we would win,” senior Frances Snyder said. “We didn’t play well enough, didn’t do enough on offense, and we paid for it.”
Bella Starzyk’s layup got the Bombers within 40-38 with 1:29 remaining. Haldane’s Abby Stowell hit the first of her two free throws and missed the second with 43 seconds left, but the Blue Devils grabbed an offensive rebound. Gabriele Baumann’s free throw made it 42-38. Pine Plains still had life with 33 seconds remaining, but a snafu on an inbounds play led to another turnover and more free throws for Haldane.
Cat Simmons’ three with 18 seconds left cut the lead to 44-41, but the Blue Devils salted the game away with three additional foul shots.
“It’s like my first birthday party,” Haldane coach Tyrone Searight said of the win. “That feeling to beat them — they were like the dinosaur of Section 9. They’re a great team — they weren’t just a good team.”
Ashley Starzyk, a senior, had 12 points, 12 rebounds and two blocks for the Bombers (16-6). Bella Starzyk, a sophomore, scored eight of her 12 points in the fourth and had seven rebounds. Snyder, a point guard, added seven points and three assists, and Haley Strang scored five points.
“Getting this far is an accomplishment for our school,” Snyder said. “We had never gone as far or done as well until three years ago. We have to be proud of that.”
Before this core emerged, Pine Plains had never won a Section 9 championship.
The Bombers came out of a taut first half trailing, 18-16. Ashley Starzyk was effective in the paint on both ends, but Haldane offset that somewhat with four three-pointers.
Hannah Monteleone’s straightaway three gave the Blue Devils that two-point edge 22 seconds before intermission. The lead eventually grew to 32-22 on Olivia McDermott’s left-wing three with 1:51 left in the third, before Pine Plains chipped away late in the fourth.
McDermott had 13 points to lead Haldane, which made eight 3-pointers to Pine Plains’ one.
Tia Fumasoli had two points and three steals. The senior had suffered a severe concussion in the state final last March and dealt with symptoms for almost a year before returning to athletics last month. It was feared that she would never play competitive sports again. A deep playoff run for Pine Plains, she said, would offer her a chance to “make up for lost time.”
The guard was distraught after Tuesday’s career-ending loss — and understandably so. But in time, most likely, she will have greater appreciation of the time she did have on the court, and the historic successes she helped lead this team to. That Fumasoli played in this game, and the handful leading up to it, was itself a victory.
“It’s been a phenomenal run,” Rich Starzyk said. “This team made school history and they’ve made a lot of people proud. For them to get to sectionals four years in a row and win it three times, get to states twice. There’s something to be said for that.”
A whole lot will be said about it. Eventually, in the days and years to come, when the pain subsides. The Bombers look back fondly.
Stephen Haynes: firstname.lastname@example.org, 845-437-4826, Twitter: @StephenHaynes4