By Rob Potter
MIDDLETOWN March 1, 2005 Three times this season the John S. Burke Catholic High School Lady Eagles and Sullivan West Lady Bulldogs met on the basketball court.
And three times the Lady Eagles prevailed.
However, last Friday nights loss was the most disappointing for the Lady Bulldogs.
After winning both of the teams Orange County Interscholastic Athletic Association (OCIAA) Division IV contests, Burke ended SWs season with a 57-34 victory in a Section IX Class B semifinal at SUNY Orange in Middletown.
With the win, top-seeded Burke (19-2) advanced to face third-seeded Spackenkill (11-9) in the Class B title game. That contest was scheduled to be held last night at Sullivan County Community College in Loch Sheldrake, weather permitting.
SWs Sarah Lander made a layup five seconds into the game to give her team a quick 2-0 lead over the Lady Eagles. However, it was the only time SW (15-7) held an advantage on the scoreboard.
Burkes Nicole Pena swished a 3-pointer with 7:40 remaining in the opening period to give the Lady Eagles a lead they would never lose. Although the Lady Bulldogs tied the score twice within the next three minutes first at 4-4 when junior forward April Ackermann scored inside at the 6:30 mark and then at 6-6 when junior forward Kate Fanning hit a jump shot at the 4:34 mark Burke expanded its lead to as many as 10 points in the first half. The Lady Eagles held a 27-21 advantage at intermission.
SW began the second half on a positive note as Fanning scored inside the lane thanks to a nice pass from senior point guard Heather Lander. Although Fanning missed the subsequent free throw after being fouled on the shot, the Lady Bulldogs trailed by just four points, 27-23.
But Burke answered with a 17-5 run to enter the fourth quarter with a comfortable 44-28 advantage.
The Lady Eagles extended that advantage during the last eight minutes of play.
The Lady Bulldog defense had their hands full with Burkes Emily Stallings. The freshman forward, who stands well over 6 feet tall, scored several baskets inside the lane. She finished the evening with a game-high 13 points.
Rachel Clark recorded 12 points and Pena added 11 points for the Lady Eagles.
Burke Coach Bob Turner noted that his team stepped up its defensive intensity in the second half.
Sullivan West works a good screen and roll play on the baseline, so we switched our defense a bit to take that away from them, he said. We got some transition baskets and we were able to execute our offense better in the third quarter.
Turner noted that three players were key to his teams offensive surge.
Carlie Moore and Rachel Clark hit some big shots for us, he said. Emily [Stallings] is very versatile, she can fill a variety of roles. She also has a lot of poise.
Fanning paced SW offense with 11 points. Ackermann netted eight points and senior center Autumn Darder added six.
Burke is a very solid team and it showed tonight, SW Assistant Coach Kurt Scheibe said.
SW Coach Ron Bernhardt noted that the Lady Bulldogs missed several opportunities to score early in the game.
In the first half we were able to break their press, he said. We had a lot of three-on-two opportunities, but we couldnt finish.
Heather Lander agreed with Bernhardt.
We just couldnt finish, she said. They hit their shots, hats off to them.
The loss marked the end of the Lady Bulldogs season and the final scholastic game for seniors Jamie Clifford, Darder and Heather Lander.
Ive coached a lot of great teams, but never in my life have I had a team like this, Bernhardt said. It was a totally conflict-free team. From the first practice until tonight, we never had a problem.
I love these girls, I wish we had practice tomorrow, the veteran coach added.
Lander and Darder echoed Bernhardts sentiments.
Im really going to miss this family, Lander said.
This is a great group of girls, we are like a family, Darder commented. Things just didnt work out tonight, but we had a great year.