By Rob Potter
LAKE HUNTINGTON February 3, 2006 About 15 minutes after the game ended, Sullivan West Coach Ron Bernhardt shook his head slightly.
I cant believe it, he said.
But it was true and the crowd of students, parents and community members who packed the SW High School gymnasium Tuesday night could testify to that fact.
Twenty days after the SW Lady Bulldogs defeated Orange County Interscholastic Athletic Association (OCIAA) Division IV rival John S. Burke Catholic High School 44-38 on Burkes homecourt in Goshen, the Lady Bulldogs topped the Lady Eagles again.
Two free throws by senior forward Kate Fanning with just 14.3 seconds remaining in the contest gave SW a 48-47 lead.
After Burke (9-5, 2-2 Division IV) missed a potential go-ahead shot, SWs Donna Kelly grabbed the rebound near the endline and was immediately fouled.
Kelly made the second of her subsequent foul shots to give the Lady Bulldogs a 49-47 advantage with 2.6 seconds remaining.
The Lady Eagles quickly inbounded the ball to attempt a last-second, game-winning shot. Senior forward Kelly Vaughn took a couple of dribbles, crossed the halfcourt line and got a good look at the basket as she launched a shot.
The ball hit the rim, but bounced away as the buzzer sounded. As dozens of people in the crowd jumped to their feet and cheered loudly, the SW players and coaches celebrated near the team bench.
The 49-47 win boosted SWs record to 10-2 overall and 4-0 in Division IV. The Lady Bulldogs can clinch the OCIAA Division IV title with a victory in one of their last two division games. SW, which is ranked fifth among New York State Class B teams in the latest New York State Sportswriters Association poll, plays at Liberty on February 8 and at James I. ONeill on Feb. 13.
Burke has won 11 straight division titles, Bernhardt said. This is a major win for us.
SW was able to open up a 32-24 lead at halftime, but the Lady Eagles began the third period with an 8-2 scoring run to tie the score at 34-34 with 5:48 left in the stanza.
After four lead changes, the Lady Bulldogs grabbed a 42-38 advantage heading into the fourth quarter. But to no ones surprise, Burke rebounded to regain the lead. Vaughn scored an easy layup with 2:58 remaining to give the Lady Eagles a 43-42 lead.
With 1:06 to go, SW sophomore forward Sarah Lander swished a 17-foot baseline jumper to give her team a 46-45 advantage.
As the decibel level in the gym increased to a peak level, Burke Coach Bob Turner called a timeout to set up a shot for his team and quell the Lady Bulldogs momentum.
After the timeout, Kathleen Foiles scored inside the lane to push the Lady Eagles back into the lead, 47-46.
But 32 seconds later, Fanning made her clutch free throws.
We played with grit and we played as a team, Bernhardt said.
Lander finished with a game-high 19 points and grabbed nine rebounds. SW senior center April Ackermann had a double-double, scoring 11 points and pulling down 11 rebounds.
Fanning ended the evening with nine points, 13 rebounds and six assists and freshman forward/center Rachel Houghtaling added six points and three rebounds for the Lady Bulldogs.
Its great, Fanning, who serves as a co-captain along with Ackermann, said of defeating the Lady Eagles twice in one month. It was just a great team effort tonight.
Even when the Lady Bulldogs had that seemingly comfortable halftime lead, they were prepared for a Burke comeback.
Basketball is a game of runs, and we thought they would comeback, Fanning commented. The key is to keep your head level no matter what.
Vaughn led the Lady Eagles with 17 points and teammate Chelsea Gallagher netted 13 points.
Our foul trouble really hurt us tonight, Turner said.
Among the Burke players who got into foul trouble was starting forward Emily Stallings. The sophomore picked up her third foul with just over two minutes left in the second quarter and spent the rest of the stanza on the bench.
Stallings, who is one of the Lady Eagles leading scorers and a good defender inside, fouled out with 4:05 remaining in the game.
In addition, Vaughn and senior guard Nicole Pena each finished the game with four fouls.
Our players that came in off the bench werent used to playing that many minutes, Turner said. We had some defensive lapses and Sullivan West was able to take advantage of that and get some layups.
Despite the foul trouble, Turner praised his team for competing so well throughout the game. He especially noted the effort made by Vaughn.
Kelly played very well, Turner commented.
Turner said that the Lady Eagles will work on getting better as they finish the regular season with two Division IV games and non-league contests against bigger schools like Haldane, Kingston and Monroe-Woodbury.