Mar 12, 2007 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Venturing into state tournament play for the first time in more than a decade, the Liverpool girls basketball team remembered to bring the tough, relentless defense that helped produce a Section III Class AA title.
But the offense didn’t tag along — and as a result, the Warriors fell one victory short of reaching the state final four.
Colonie, the Section II champions from the Albany suburbs, shut down Liverpool for long portions of last Saturday’s AA regional final at Jamesville-DeWitt, leading to a 46-34 defeat.
Head coach Mike Olley said the Garnet Raiders’ constant pressure left the Warriors with few good chances to put in baskets.
“They played really good defense and we had trouble with the man-to-man,” he said. “We couldn’t get open shots.”
Liverpool also ran into a highly motivated foe. Colonie, a team that starts five seniors, had lost in this same round (and in this same J-D gym) to Nottingham in 2005 and was bent on a different outcome this time.
The Garnet Raiders’ pressure had an immediate impact. Liverpool did not have a field goal in the game’s first 4:15, and to compensate, rushed both possessions and shots throughout the first half.
“We knew they had a lot of great scorers and we had to make sure we contested shots,” said Colonie head coach Karen Bonitatibus.
Still, the damage was minimal, for the Warriors’ own defense caused just as much trouble for Colonie and kept the game close. Never trailing by more than seven points, Liverpool surged late in the second quarter and went to the break trailing by just three, 18-15.
It got even better early in the third quarter. A Colleen Maloney lay-up, combined with back-to-back baskets by Ashleigh Bowers, put Liverpool in front for the first time, 21-20, and led to a Colonie time-out.
Alerted to the situation, the Garnet Raiders got even more physical on both ends and reclaimed the lead, going up by as much as seven (again) before the Warriors made one more late push.
When Bowers scored with less than four minutes left, Liverpool trailed by just a basket, 35-33. But Colonie’s Ola Shajuyigbe used a pair of free throws and a big 3-pointer to build the lead back to 40-33, and the Warriors never got closer than five points again.
No one on Liverpool’s roster reached double figures. Tyler Ash struggled with her outside shot all afternoon, as she and Sharon Dennis led the way with just nine points apiece. Bowers added seven points. Colonie’s Logan Pintka led both sides with 16 points.
So ended Liverpool’s 15-game win streak, a run that dated back to December, as Colonie advanced to meet Rush-Henrietta (Section V) at this weekend’s state semifinals at Hudson Valley Community College in Troy.
As it pondered the end of its 21-3 run, Liverpool could take comfort in most of what it had done, mostly the league and sectional titles attained along the way.
“I am beyond proud of them,” said Olley. “They have worked incredibly hard and have great chemistry, too. After four months, they still want to work.”
And though Ash, Dennis, Kristin Murrock and Christina Ippolito return next winter, the departure of Maloney, Bowers, Lauren Pluchino, Katie Grosso and Catherine Hartmann makes the challenge even greater.
“It’s going to be very tough to see these seniors go,” said Olley.
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