By Rob Potter
LAKE HUNTINGTON January 30, 2007 As one might expect when two talented teams square off in the championship game of a basketball tournament, the outcome of Saturday night’s title contest of the Billy Moran Tip-Off Tournament at Sullivan West High School was not decided until the final moments.
The Onteora Lady Indians and Sullivan West Lady Bulldogs gave it their all in Saturday night’s final. While the Lady Bulldogs grabbed the lead and expanded it to as many as eight points in the third quarter, the Lady Indians rallied to tie the game at 31-31 in the opening seconds of the fourth period.
But SW (11-4) used a couple of key baskets and the support of its home crowd to gradually build a double-digit lead as the final stanza progressed. When the final buzzer sounded, the Lady Bulldogs had recorded a 47-33 victory over Onteora (4-8).
The Lady Bulldogs outscored the Lady Indians 16-4 in the fourth quarter to ensure the victory.
SW junior forward Sarah Lander made what was perhaps the biggest basket of the game early in the final period. With 7:06 remaining, Lander swished a 3-point shot to give her team a 34-31 advantage.
Lander’s long-distance hoop came about 45 seconds after Onteora’s Kira Wrixon knocked down a short jump shot to knot the score at 31-31.
In the minute after Lander’s 3-pointer, SW extended its lead to 38-31 as Jennifer Pitz made an 18-foot jumper and Lander received an excellent pass from senior forward Donna Kelly and scored under the basket.
Onteora Coach Andy Occhi called a timeout following Lander’s basket to stop the Lady Bulldogs’ momentum.
But after the Lady Indians failed to score in their next possession, SW sophomore center Rachel Houghtaling kept her team’s momentum flowing. With 5:38 left in the contest, Houghtaling put back a missed shot and was fouled on the play. She then nailed her free throw to push the Lady Bulldogs’ lead to double digits at 41-31.
Lander, who scored a total of 14 points, was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player (MVP).
Houghtaling recorded a game-high 16 points and was selected for the All-Tournament team.
Katrina Graby and Kelly added seven points and five points, respectively, for SW.
Wrixon, who netted a team-high 13 points for the Lady Indians, was chosen for the All-Tournament team.
Julia Hinchey registered six points for Onteora, while teammate Liz Zweibel added five points.
“We played great team defense tonight,” SW Coach Ron Bernhardt said.
The veteran coach noted that the Lady Bulldogs’ performance on the defensive end of the court was very important because “in the first half, we couldn’t buy a bucket.”
While praising all of the Lady Bulldogs, Bernhardt singled out Lander and Pitz.
“The story of the game was Lander and Jenn Pitz playing great defense on two of their better players, Zweibel and Wrixon,” Bernhardt said.
While Bernhardt noted that “it is great to be 11 and 4,” he stressed that his team has some tough games including a key Orange County Interscholastic Athletic Association (OCIAA) Division IV game at John S. Burke Catholic School in the final weeks of the regular season.
Like Bernhardt, Occhi felt that defense was an integral factor in the game’s outcome.
“Their defense took us out of our game,” Occhi said.
“And my team played well for only two quarters,” he added. “We played well in the first and third quarters, but struggled in the second and fourth quarters. You can’t do that against a good team and expect to win the game.”
S.S. Seward Tops Tri-Valley in Consolation Game
In the tournament’s consolation game, S.S. Seward defeated Tri-Valley, 58-22.
Seward (9-6) grabbed a 6-0 lead in the opening minutes of the contest and never looked back.
T-V (3-10) closed the gap to 6-4 when Kelly McNamara made a jump shot while being fouled and then converted her free throw.
But the Lady Spartans responded with a 5-0 scoring run to close out the first period. Behind 3-point shots from Vivien Greiser and Brooke Burnside, Seward opened the second quarter with a 14-1 run.
As a result, Seward enjoyed a 33-8 advantage at halftime.
Leading the Lady Spartans to their big victory was Burnside. She scored a game-high 20 points, the majority of which came from six successful 3-point shots.
Burnside was the Seward representative on the All-Tournament team.
Greiser netted 12 points, Courtney Howell recorded nine points and Kathleen Folkl had eight points for Seward.
Pacing the Lady Bears’ offense were Miranda Benevides, who had eight points, and McNamara, who finished the evening with five points.
T-V’s Skylar Musa was chosen for the All-Tournament team.
“We played well tonight,” Seward Coach Joe DiMattina said. “But we need to be more consistent. We had stretches where we played well, then we kind of zoned out.”
“Brooke Burnside had a great game for us,” DiMattina added.
T-V Coach Karen Andrews noted that the first quarter was the key to the game.
“They were up 6-1 and we were able to get it to 6-4,” she said. “Then they got a couple of baskets when they needed to. We had a chance for a couple of easy baskets, but we missed them. They increased their lead and kept going.”