By Rob Potter
GOSHEN February 20, 2007 As expected, the Orange County Interscholastic Athletic Association (OCIAA) Division IV basketball game which took place on Friday night between the Sullivan West Lady Bulldogs and host John S. Burke Catholic Lady Eagles was very close and competitive.
The first and second quarters featured seven lead changes and five ties before SW was able to take a slim 21-19 lead at halftime.
The score was tied twice in the third period before Burke took a 34-31 advantage at the end of those eight minutes of play.
Early in the fourth quarter, the Lady Eagles grabbed the momentum and extended their lead.
Burke led by as many as 10 points in the final period and went on to post a 46-39 victory.
With the win, Burke, which was the fourth-ranked Class B girls’ basketball team in the New York State Sportswriters Association poll released on February 4, clinched the OCIAA Division IV title. The Lady Eagles, who improved their season record to 17-1 overall and 8-0 in Div. IV, figure to be the No. 1 or No. 2 seed in next week’s Section IX Class B tournament.
One offensive sequence early in the fourth period sent Burke off on a 10-0 run. With just under six minutes left in the stanza, Katie Grahn put up a shot from close range. The ball bounced off the rim and another Lady Eagle grabbed it and put it back up towards the basket.
That shot also missed, but junior forward Emily Stallings snatched the rebound and tried her own shot from inside the lane. Stallings’ shot was off the mark, but Grahn caught the rebound. Grahn then put the ball off the glass above the rim and it fell through the net.
The hoop gave Burke a 39-34 lead with 5:46 remaining.
Just over a minute later, Stallings knocked down an 8-foot jumper to push the lead to seven points at 41-34.
The Lady Eagles stretched their advantage to double figures when Megan Rufer made both ends of a 1-and-1 situation with 4:02 remaining and the first foul shot of another 1-and-1 opportunity at the 2:43 mark.
SW’s Sarah Lander broke the Burke run by swishing a 3-pointer with 1:49 remaining.
The Lady Bulldogs pulled to within five points at 44-39 when Rachel Houghtaling scored inside the lane with 19 ticks on the clock. But SW (14-4, 6-2 Division IV) could not get any closer.
Leading Burke to the win was Stallings, who scored a game-high 17 points. The only other Lady Eagle to reach double figures was Shannon Gough, who netted 10 points.
Rufer finished with eight points and Chelsea Gallagher, who was honored before the game along with fellow Lady Eagle seniors Zelina Jones and Amanda Orengo, added seven points.
Lander was the only Lady Bulldog to score in double figures. The junior forward recorded 14 points on the evening.
Katrina Graby scored nine points and Houghtaling had six points.
“I knew that Sullivan West would come out and play with a lot of heart,” Burke Coach Bob Turner said. “They hustled the whole game and gave us a hard time.”
Turner noted that the Lady Bulldogs surprised him by utilizing a full-court press on several occasions. He said the press “really slowed down our guards.
“[But]we were able to get some layups and make some 3-pointers,” Turner said.
While noting that Grahn “played a great game,” the Burke leader also praised Rufer and Shannon Gough.
“I think Megan Rufer hit a couple of big shots for us in the fourth quarter,” Turner commented. “Shannon Gough played great on defense and she made some key shots in the fourth quarter as well.”
Burke enjoyed a big advantage in foul shooting. The Lady Eagles made 13-of-18 shots at the free-throw line, while the Lady Bulldogs were just 2-of-6 at the line.
Although he was disappointed with the loss, SW Coach Ron Bernhardt was pleased with his players.
“We played our hardest,” he said. “This loss wasn’t because of a lack of effort.”
The veteran coach noted that the Lady Bulldogs’ offense was hampered by the fact that they “never got into the [free-throw] bonus in either half.”
But he noted that the Lady Eagles’ performance was a key factor in the game’s outcome.
“You have to give credit to Burke for playing a great game,” Bernhardt said. “They’re a very good team.”
Despite losing to Burke twice this season after sweeping the Lady Eagles during the 2005-2006 season, Bernhardt is pleased with the fact that his team is eager to challenge Burke, which has won several Section IX basketball championships.
“I’m very proud of our girls for going out on the court, looking them in the eye and running with them,” he said.