True, the Jordan-Elbridge girls basketball team could not put an end to its 24-year wait for a Section III championship. But the drought might not last much longer.
With just one senior on its roster, the Eagles had a chance to knock off unbeaten, state no. 1-ranked South Jefferson in Saturday's Class B final at Utica Memorial Auditorium. But enough lapses, at enough key points, allowed the Spartans to prevail 42-37.
"We didn't get enough second-chance points," J-E head coach Leslie Ahern said. "We did some things really good, but then we turn around and make a silly play."
What had been a constant throughout the Eagles' three playoff wins over Watertown IHC, Sherburne-Earlville and Westhill was the inside dominance of sophomore center Molly Hourigan, whose efforts included a pair of triple-doubles.
South Jefferson, with its depth and trademark man-to-man defense, set out to prevent Hourigan from getting the ball. It worked, as Hourigan had just seven points, and often had to watch as the Spartans forced the Eagles into jump shots on numerous possessions.
J-E's own defense proved quite stout in the early going, only allowing a pair of South Jefferson field goals. And when Kali Davis sank a 3-pointer early in the second quarter, the Eagles possessed a 10-5 lead.
For the rest of the half, though, South Jefferson took charge, forcing turnovers and bad shots and, on the other end, getting seven points apiece from Rachael Bassett and Amanda Roberts to seize a 19-14 halftime edge.
It got worse early in the third quarter, the Eagles' deficit growing to 25-14, a margin that seemed much larger because of the Spartans' daunting defense.
Yet J-E nearly made it back, outscoring South Jefferson 9-3 the rest of the period and, with Kelsey Richardson's lay-up, pulling within three, 28-25, as the final quarter got underway.