Feb 22, 2012 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Dan Hallinan said that his first season at the helm of the West Genesee girls basketball team would be a success with one playoff win.
Well, the Wildcats now own two playoff wins – and as a result, it will go to the Carrier Dome and have a shot at toppling a superpower with the Section III Class AA championship on the line.
Avenging a defeat late in the regular season, the no. 3 seed Wildcats used a strong second-half push on both ends of the floor to beat no. 2 seed Fayetteville-Manlius 52-46 in Tuesday night’s AA semifinal at Onondaga Community College’s SRC Arena.
These two sides had first met Jan. 31 in Camillus, a game where WG lost, 49-41, partially because it could not take full advantage of the foul trouble of F-M’s 6-foot senior center, Kiley Shoemaker.
Three and a half weeks later, the rematch proved even closer. After trailing through most of the first quarter, the Wildcats seized a 19-15 lead midway through the second period as Vicki Graveline, with nine points, and Melissa Fumano, with six points, set the early pace.
F-M, led by Shoemaker’s nine points, charged in front 20-19 by halftime, and in the third quarter the margin grew to 31-26, the Wildcats on the brink of seeing the Hornets get past them again.
But after Alexis Rios hit a 3-pointer with 3:13 left in that period, WG would not allow another Hornet field goal for the next nine-plus minutes, during which time it went on a decisive 18-2 run that stretched deep into the fourth quarter.
On the defensive side, the Wildcats’ pair of senior guards, Emily Tripodi and Kara Datellas, joined with sophomore Marissa Hudgins as they locked down on Rios, Charlotte Beers and Lauren Getman, wearing them down with pressure and forcing a series of turnovers and bad shots.
Tripodi finished with four steals as Hudgins had nine rebounds to go with her six points before fouling out.
Meanwhile, Graveline sparked the spurt with a jumper and 3-pointer on consecutive possessions that tied the game, 31-31, and when Datellas executed a steal and layup early in the fourth quarter, WG went ahead for good.
Graveline would finish with 19 points and six rebounds, while Fumano had 17 points as the pair combined to hit a season-best six 3-pointers.
Datellas helped in the clutch, getting all of her nine points (she also had four assists) in the fourth quarter as the Wildcats had to hold back a furious late F-M surge.
F-M, down 45-33, used full-court pressure to go on an 8-1 run to move within 46-41 with 1:30 to play, but after another Hornets steal, the Wildcats stole it back and Graveline made a crucial basket.
Shoemaker, who finished with 16 points, fouled out in the closing seconds after the Hornets closed the gap to 49-45, and the Wildcats used four more free throws to seal it. Beers, despite all the pressure on her, finished with 11 points.
This sets up the Wildcats for a memorable experience as, next Friday at 7 p.m., it goes to the Carrier Dome to face top seed and defending state Class AA champion Cicero-North Syracuse for the sectional title. To say WG is a massive underdog might be understating the challenge that lies ahead.
Led by Connecticut-bound McDonald’s All-American Breanna Stewart (who is also Section III’s all-time leading scorer), the Northstars beat the Wildcats 89-31 when they met in the regular season on Jan. 20 and put together a 39-2 first half in burying Liverpool 63-19 in the other sectional semifinal.