Mar 02, 2009 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Not for a decade has the Fayetteville-Manlius girls basketball team ever been this close to a Section III championship. And no one would argue the fact that the Hornets richly earned that chance at a title.
Culminating a week full of superlative effort, the Hornets rallied from a big second-half deficit to shock top seed and defending champion Corcoran 39-36 in last Friday night’s Class AA semifinal at Liverpool High School.
“For the last few years, we had achieved a certain level of consistency,” F-M head coach Scott DeForest said. “But we hadn’t been able to win the big games.”
All that has changed, and the Corcoran game was a prime example of how a combination of seasoning, poise and toughness can lead to the next level.
F-M had beaten Corcoran back on Jan. 23, but that had come with the Cougars’ top player, Irene Hudson, sidelined due to illness. Hudson was back for the rematch — and for a while, her presence looked to be the difference.
The Hornets got just the pace it wanted in the first half, taking away Corcoran’s ability to run and forcing outside shots that were off target. By doing so, the Hornets inched into a 17-16 lead at the break, but that lead wouldn’t last.
With Hudson getting 11 of her 16 points in the third quarter, the Cougars roared in front 31-22. Not only were the Hornets behind, it had a key player, Emily Trapani, on the bench with four fouls. Still, DeForest said his players were ready for the long haul.
“We needed to make this game into a long-distance race,” he said. “We thought that, at the end, we would have our legs.”
Switching to a zone defense, F-M forced Corcoran into outside shots that were well off target, and held its own on the boards, too. All told, the Hornets kept the Cougars off the board for more than seven minutes, enough time to spring a comeback.
Allison Pliszka and Liz Towne both converted baskets in the last 30 seconds of the third period to cut it to 31-27, and despite lots of turnovers in the final period, it caught up at 31-31 when Trapani hit a lay-up with 5:26 left.
There it remained until Torie Lee drained with a 3-pointer with 2:52 to play, giving F-M its first lead (34-31) since halftime. Baskets by Pliszka and Trapani helped make it 38-33 before Quarin Bey’s 3-pointer with a minute left cut the lead to 38-36.
With 23.3 seconds left, Katie Sager got fouled. She made one free throw, increasing the margin to three, then stole the ball in the final seconds to clinch the victory.
Overall, Sager led F-M with 14 points, while Lee had 10 points and Trapani added six points. Other than Hudson, no Corcoran player had more than the six points put up by Bey.
The stunning win over Corcoran puts F-M in Saturday’s AA championship game against Cicero-North Syracuse, to be played at Utica Memorial Auditorium. CNS flattened Christian Brothers Academy 54-31 in the other semifinal game.
Beaten by the Northstars at home on Jan. 16, F-M knows that containing 6-3 freshman center Breanna Stewart (who had 23 points in the semifinal win over CBA) is crucial if it wants to win its first-ever sectional title.