Though already an established dynasty, the Jamesville-DeWitt girls basketball team had an opportunity to add another major accomplishment for its annals – and did so.
Led by stars both new and well-established, the Red Rams fought past Elmont Memorial 64-51 Saturday night at Troy’s Hudson Valley Community College to earn a third consecutive state Class A championship.
“Ever since November this is what we have been talking about and we got it, said senior Meg Hair, a part of all three of those title teams along with fellow seniors Jamie Boeheim and Kasey Vaughan.
“I’m so happy to do it with this group of girls,” said Boeheim. “We have been working for this.”
Whether it was Boeheim setting the tone in the paint, or Momo LeClair deftly handling the ball, or Gabby Stickle taking control with a barrage of third-quarter long-range strikes, or Meg Hair polishing it off with eight points in the fourth quarter, no single player accomplished this enormous feat.
“We had different people be key contributors today,” said head coach Rob Siechen. “Kids who other teams don’t realize can play and they stepped up on this stage and were tremendous. We are eight deep and it was an awesome effort by everyone.”
Part of that championship formula is knowing just when to strike, even when things aren’t breaking right in other corners and it isn’t as easy as it was when J-D routed Elmont in last March’s state semifinal.
The Long Island-based Spartans hung close to the Rams throughout the first half, whether the pace was swift in the opening minutes or when it slowed down during the second quarter.
Each time, in the last minute, a timely 3-pointer arrived, from Kasey Vaughan late in the first quarter and from Andrea Sumida as the second-quarter clock ran down.
Those six points made up the total of the Rams’ 30-24 halftime lead, a necessary counterpart to the strong inside work by Spartans forward Kem Nwabudu, who notched 10 points to counter the eight points from Boeheim.
Vaughan and LaClair each got six points in the half, which more than made up for the attention Elmont gave to Hair, who other than a couple of early baskets was shut out for a large portion of the half.
That only served as a prelude to Stickle’s memorable third-quarter.
With consecutive 3-pointers – one from the right corner, the other from the left corner – Stickle pushed J-D’s lead to double digits, and she added two more beyond the arc, scoring the Rams’ first 12 points of the period.
Even with that, Elmont chipped away, cutting an 11-point deficit to four, 49-45, midway through the fourth quarter as it dominated on the boards and took away J-D’s outside options.
That left it to the Rams to drive directly at the goal. That’s what LaClair and Hair did for back-to-back baskets that made it 53-45, blows from which the Spartans could not recover. LaClair finished with 14 points, one more than Hair’s 13-point effort.
Hair and LaClair handled most of the rest of the production, and Vaughan, injured last year during that J-D state final four run but earning 10 points on this night, had the ball in her hands as the clock ran out and the Red Rams celebrated a state three-peat.
Then, at least for Boeheim and Hair, it was off to Detroit to watch Jamie’s father coach the SU men’s basketball team to an NCAA Tournament upset of Michigan State.
Back home, J-D will prepare for a third consecutive appearance in the state Federation Tournament at Cool Insuring Arena in Glens Falls. The Red Rams have lost in the Federation finals each of the last two years and badly want to change that result this time.
On Friday morning at 9 a.m. J-D meets Staten Island Academy in the Federation semifinals, the same team it lost to in last year’s Federation title game. The winner advances to Saturday’s final at 4 p.m. against Buffalo Sacred Heart or James Madison, the PSAL champions from Brooklyn.
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