For three games, no one could touch the Central region girls basketball team during last weekend’s Basketball Coaches Association of New York Summer Hoops Festival in Johnson City.
But once it got into the semifinals, Central’s run to a title was abruptly halted by Rochester, just as it was in 2016, which was a sudden letdown for a squad whose only expectation was to claim the first title for Central in the Hoops Fest’s seven-year history.
What made the opening round a potential challenge for Central, coached by Fulton’s Derek Lyons, was the fact that, due to the compact schedule, it would play its three round-robin games within a span of less than 24 hours, with a skills competition added to that slate.
That didn’t bother Central too much, though. The first game saw Central pull away from Suffolk County (Long Island) 74-55, establishing a pattern of stern defense on one end augmented by a steady, solid attack spearheaded by Bishop Ludden’s Danielle Rauch.
Sinking five 3-pointers against Suffolk, Rauch finished with 21 points, getting plenty of help from West Genesee’s Mackenzie Smith, who got 15 points while playing alongside her sister, Madison. Jamesville-DeWitt standout Meg Hair earned 11 points.
The Saturday-afternoon slate for Central started against Buffalo, and after building a double-digit halftime lead, Central clamped down even more on the defensive front, ultimately prevailing 56-40.
As if the 15 points put up by Hair and 12 points by Rauch were not enough, they promptly led Central to another victory when they took first place in the BCANY 3-point shooting contest. It was a clean sweep for Central since the boys team, led by J-D’s Buddy Boeheim, also prevailed in that event.
A win away from winning its pool, Central got it hours later with another romp, this one 63-38 over Mid-Hudson. So effective was Central that all 12 players earned at least one point, with Hair’s Jamesville-DeWitt teammate, Jamie Boeheim, at the forefront as the forward led with 14 points. Rauch added nine points, all on three 3-pointers.
This put Central atop the Pool B standings and into the semifinals, where on Sunday morning it took on Rochester, the second-place finisher in Pool A. Though Central aimed at getting even for last year’s defeat to Rochester, it could not quite get there.
Playing at the tempo it wanted, Rochester inched into a one-point lead by halftime, and then stretched the margin to 10 at one point in the second half. Battling back, Central tied the game with two minutes left, but paid for missing crucial free throws in the homestretch.
Rochester prevailed, 63-55, getting most of its production from Dyaisha Fair, who had 23 points, and Kayla Jackson, who had 15 points. Four Central players still reached double figures as Hair and Rauch each netted 14 points, with Mackenzie Smith getting 12 points and Cooperstown’s Julie Ford adding 11 points.
Still, the effort Central made took a toll on Rochester, who lost the Hoops Festival final to host Southern Tier 58-48.
Other members of the Central roster included Chittenango’s Ally Shoemaker, Bishop Ludden’s Laura Patulski, Whitesboro’s Hannah Scott, General Brown’s Kylee Rosbrook, Adirondack’s Belle Kranbuhl and Pulaski’s Lauren Denny.