By Rob Potter
LAKE HUNTINGTON February 19, 2008 The high school basketball postseason is not scheduled to begin for a few more days, but the atmosphere at Friday night’s hoops contest at Sullivan West High School was similar to a sectional game.
A large and vocal crowd looked on as the visiting John S. Burke Catholic High School Lady Eagles and the Sullivan West Lady Bulldogs competed in an Orange County Interscholastic Athletic Association (OCIAA) Division IV game.
Those scores of fans witnessed SW hand Burke its first loss of the season, 45-39.
With the win, SW improved its overall record to 16-2 overall and 7-1 in Division IV. The Lady Bulldogs also claimed a share of the Division IV title.
Burke’s record now stands at 18-1 overall and 6-1 within the division. The Lady Eagles are slated to face Liberty tonight in a Division IV contest. With a victory, Burke would share the division championship with the Lady Bulldogs.
SW entered the fourth quarter with a 32-23 lead, but Burke closed that advantage to just three points twice in the first four minutes of the stanza.
With just 9.9 seconds remaining in the game, Lindsey Murphy made two free throws to push the Lady Bulldogs’ lead to seven at 43-36.
But the Lady Eagles quickly moved the ball downcourt and senior forward Emily Stallings made a 3-pointer from the top of the key to make it a four-point game.
Burke then called a timeout with 4.4 seconds left.
SW inbounded the ball and Murphy was fouled with 3.1 seconds on the clock.
Since the Lady Bulldogs were in the double-bonus, Murphy had two shots at the line. She made both free throws to seal SW’s six-point victory. Sarah Lander scored a game-high 14 points for the Lady Bulldogs, while Rachel Houghtaling had 11 points and Katrina Graby netted eight points.
“We couldn’t be prouder of them,” SW Coach Ron Bernhardt said of his players.
He noted that teamwork was one of keys to the victory.
“We played good team defense and they executed to the max,” Bernhardt said. “I thought they played with poise and stayed relaxed.”
The veteran coach also credited his players with doing a good job of rebounding. Houghtaling had seven rebounds, Lander had six rebounds and Graby and senior guard Jenn Pitz each had five rebounds. Houghtaling also dished out six assists.
The Lady Bulldogs’ defense limited Stallings, who recently recorded her 1,000th career point and is often Burke’s top scorer each game, to just five points.
Guard Shannon Gough led the Lady Eagles’ offense with 12 points and Megan Rufer added 11 points.
Burke Coach Bob Turner concurred with Bernhardt in that rebounding was pivotal to the game’s outcome.
“They were able to get some offensive rebounds and then get second shots,” Turner said of the Lady Bulldogs.
“They deserved to win tonight, they played hard,” he added.