Mar 02, 2012 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
No more waiting for the Jamesville-DeWitt girls basketball team – after a quest that consumed 14 seasons and all sorts of near-misses, the Red Rams are, at last, Section III champions again.
Balanced scoring, a strong mid-game surge and cool precision down the stretch in the face of a fierce comeback attempt were enough for J-D to get past Cortland 47-38 in Thursday night’s Class A final at the Carrier Dome.
“It’s been a long drought,” said head coach Rob Siechen. “It’s great for these kids to break through.”
Kayleigh Cavanaugh, who had 13 points and was named tournament MVP, said her team’s intentions were clear from the start of the winter.
“We had this goal from the start, and we played our hearts out,” she said.
That effort required J-D to beat Cortland for the third time this season. As before, the Rams’ efforts centered around containing the Purple Tigers’ star forward, Maggie Brown, who is headed to Le Moyne College.
That didn’t prove successful in the first quarter. Brown’s aggressive drives to the baskets led to eight quick points, and Cortland gained a 10-7 lead.
For its part, the Rams were settling for outside jumpers, and not making them – something, said Siechen, that wasn’t too surprising, given the difficulty any team unfamiliar with the Dome has adjusting to the vast setting.
But with J-D still trailing 14-9 early in the second quarter, one of those shots, from Stephanie Mannion, dropped for a 3-pointer. That seemed to loosen up Cortland’s tight defenses, and the Rams’ guards plowed right through them, drawing fouls and getting easier baskets inside.
“We got on the fast break, and got layups instead of jump shots,” said Cavanaugh.
Cydney Goodrum, who finished with 14 points and 10 rebounds and earned a spot on the All-Tournament team, put it another way.
“We were sleeping,” she said. “And then we woke up.”
Quickly, J-D forged a 20-20 tie, but didn’t stop there, notching the last seven points of the first half, capped by back-to-back baskets from Lauren Beville.
That momentum carried over deep into the third quarter, too, as the Rams put together another 9-0 spurt that increased the lead to 40-23. Still, it wasn’t over.
Brown personally brought Cortland back, getting eight of her 24 points during a 10-0 spurt that ended the period, capped by a drive and basket that made it 40-33. All of a sudden, J-D had reason to worry.
Before the fourth quarter started, said Siechen, “I told them that we had to get a bucket. We had to settle down on offense.”
Mannion did the honors with a pivotal 3-pointer from the corner early in that final period. Then J-D’s defense found its second wind, too, aided by its depth and by the fact that Katie Maroney tailed Brown, forcing her into bad shots that thwarted the Purple Tigers’ rally.
Siechen said that his team’s bench, which included Caitlin Cariseo, Maddy Frank, Abbey Smith and Alyssa Robens, offered the same contributions that they have all season, keeping starters fresh and energized for the homestretch.
That included Goodrum, who capped off her double-double, and the Rams’ sectional title, with a rebound basket in the waning seconds after a missed free throw from Mannion, who got 11 points on the night.
Now J-D goes after its first-ever state Class A title. On Wednesday night, the Rams meet Massena (Section X) at SUNY-Potsdam, with the winner advancing to the March 10 regional final against Section II champion Averill Park at Hudson Valley Community College in Troy – the same site of the state final four on March 16-17.