Mar 06, 2010 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
As an undefeated team in 2009, the Hamilton girls basketball team was fully expected to win the Section III Class D title, only to get victimized by Sackets Harbor’s hot shooting.
Twelve months later, a seven-times-beaten crew of Emerald Knights made the same trip to Utica Memorial Auditorium with much smaller expectations – and walked away with the big prize for the first time in the program’s history.
Hamilton found all kinds of atonement in Saturday night’s 40-30 victory over New York Mills in the Class D final. Not only did it erase the ghosts of the ’09 final, it also avenged two regular-season losses to the Marauders.
“I’m still in shock,” head coach Jessica Poole said. “No one expected us to even get here.”
But the Emerald Knights did get there, rising from a no. 7 seed in Class D to stun no. 2 seed Oriskany 49-41 in the quarterfinals, then toppled Rome Catholic 42-28 in the semifinals after the Red Wings beat them twice in the regular season.
Having survived injuries to seven of its 10 players during the winter, not to mention what looked like irreplaceable losses (Kylie Martin and Jess Brawn), Hamilton found the third encounter with top seed New York Mills to be something it could handle.
Loose and relaxed going into the game, the players donned T-shirts during the warm-ups. On the front it read “Dark Horses Unite”, around the Hamilton logo, and on the back it read “Back to the Aud 2010”. They would find the second trip far more pleasant than the first.
Even a 10-4 first-quarter deficit didn’t faze the Emerald Knights – mainly because it had junior forward Jordan Peterson to spark a turnaround.
In the midst of a spectacular post-season run, Peterson, named MVP of the Class D tournament, scored her team’s first nine points on her way to 19 points for the night, plus 16 rebounds, four steals and three blocks.
“Jordan is a well-balanced player,” Poole said. “She took on a leadership role this year. And when the game is on the line, she wants to have the basketball.”
Mills, having to worry so much about Peterson, allowed her teammates open looks in the second quarter. Hillary Hanson, Katherine Keever and Katie Weeks all converted, and the early deficit vanished as Hamilton bolted to a 20-16 halftime lead.
It would get better, too, mainly because Hamilton adjusted its defense from its first two games against the Marauders. Poole said that, instead of the man-to-man looks that hadn’t worked, her team used a 3-2 zone, and it worked. At one point, Mills had just one field goal in an eight-minute span.
Hamilton’s margin grew to 30-19 in the third quarter, but the Marauders closed the period with six straight points, causing some temporary concerns.
But Poole said her team stayed calm and collective, and it restored the margin in the fourth quarter as a trio of Peterson free throws sealed it.
Aside from Peterson’s big night, Keever picked a good time to set a season mark with nine points. Weeks and Hanson each had six points.
Hamilton will meet Section IV champion Charlotte Valley (Davenport) next Saturday in the Class D regional finals. The winner goes to Hudson Valley Community College in Troy for next weekend’s state Class D final four.