By Fred Stabbert III
GOSHEN January 13, 2006 It was a night when the Sullivan West Lady Bulldogs just wouldnt give up.
Playing on the road against one of the most feared basketball programs in the Hudson Valley, Sullivan West clawed its way to a 44-38 win Wednesday night over John S. Burke Catholic in Goshen.
The win marked the first time Sullivan West has defeated its arch-rival, a rivalry which is destined to become even more fierce.
Although neither team had a great night shooting the ball, Sullivan West outhustled, outdefensed and outscrapped the Eagles on both ends of the floor to come home with the victory.
They deserved to win, a dejected Bob Turner, coach of the Eagles, said. They got to every loose ball, hit the boards, were in terrific shape and played hard.
What Cornwall was able to give us good looks down low Sullivan West took away, Turner said. They were hungrier and more aggressive than us. Weve been struggling the first six games and have been playing better, not good.
Were not mentally tough yet.
Sullivan West Coach Ron Bernhardt, after joining in on an on-court celebration fitting of a league championship, credited his front line depth with wearing down Burke.
Freshman Rachel Houghtaling took on Burkes super sophomore Emily Stallings and was able to hold her own, giving Sullivan West starters April Ackermann, Sarah Lander and Kate Fanning a chance to catch their breath.
But it was Fannings night, especially in the fourth quarter, when she scored all eight of her points.
I started real slow, Fanning, one of only two seniors on the team, said. For three years Burke has beat us. This is a great feeling, the best feeling of my life.
Fanning was 5-5 from the free-throw line and broke a 37-37 tie with a 3-pointer from the left side with only 59 seconds left on the clock to clinch the win for Sullivan West.
Things didnt look good for Sullivan West out of the gate. After seeing their jayvee squad get manhandled by Burke, Sullivan Wests varsity fell behind 7-2 just three minutes into the game.
But point guard Erin Bernhardt swished a 3-pointer at the 3:00 mark to tie the score at 7-7 and give her teammates the confidence they needed to stay in the game.
And with just seconds left in the first quarter, Donna Kelly stole an inbounds pass and raced the length of the court to lay in a basket to knot the score at 12 after one quarter.
The second stanza was as scrappy as any eight minutes of basketball could ever be. Neither team could find the basket as hard-nosed defense took over.
Sullivan West outscored Burke 5-3 in the second period, thanks to Lander and Ackermann, who both knocked in baskets.
Sullivan West tried to open things up in the third quarter and when Ackermann swished a 3-pointer at 2:32, the Bulldogs led 24-19, their largest lead of the game.
But Burke showed why they have so many league championship titles hanging on the wall when they fought back to take the lead 26-25 with only a minute left in the third.
Lander again hit a basket to end the quarter and give Sullivan West a slim 27-26 lead.
Both teams saved their best basketball for last, as the fourth quarter saw a well-played, hard-fought contest.
Unfortunately, play had to be stopped midway through the quarter as unruly fans from the Catholic high school had to be reprimanded for yelling at the refs. Administrators quickly responded and sat with the Burke fans the rest of the game.
Although Sullivan West again took a five-point lead midway through the quarter, Burke fought back to tie the score with only 1:04 left.
After a timeout, Fanning hit her 3-pointer to give the Bulldogs the lead for good.
Sullivan West (7-2, 2-0) was led by Lander with a game-high 16 points, Ackermanns nine, Fannings eight and Kelly with five. The Bulldogs were 14-23 (60 percent) from the charity stripe and Burke was 11-17 (64 percent).
Burke (7-2, 1-1) was lead by Stallings with 15.
Both teams already have January 31 circled on their calendars when Burke will visit Lake Huntington to take on the Bulldogs.