By Rob Potter
GOSHEN March 4, 2008 Just 13 days after defeating the John S. Burke Catholic High School Lady Eagles to earn a share of the Orange County Interscholastic Athletic Association (OCIAA) Division IV title, the Sullivan West Lady Bulldogs saw their basketball season end with a loss to Burke.
A capacity crowd, about half of whom traveled from Sullivan County to cheer on the Lady Bulldogs, watched Thursday night as third-seeded SW squared off against the second-seeded Lady Eagles in a Section IX Class B semifinal game at Burke High School in Goshen.
Those fans watched Burke take a 22-20 halftime lead and then outscore SW by a 30-21 margin in the second half to record a 52-41 victory.
Just 23 seconds into the third quarter, SW’s Lindsey Murphy scored to even the game at 22-22.
Less than two minutes later, at the 5:46 mark, Burke senior forward Emily Stallings made a free throw to give her team a 23-22 lead.
The Lady Eagles extended that advantage to six points before SW’s Sarah Lander made a long jump shot with 2:10 left in the stanza, which brought the Lady Bulldogs to within four at 28-24.
The teams traded baskets during their next possessions. But after a Burke turnover, the Lady Bulldogs regained control of the basketball. On that possession, Katrina Graby grabbed an offensive rebound and scored to bring SW within a basket at 30-28.
But the Lady Eagles quickly pushed their lead back to eight points.
Kaitlin Fitzgibbons made a 3-pointer with 25 seconds left in the frame and Tara Fogarty swished a 3-pointer with just three seconds on the clock to give Burke a 36-28 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
Burke (21-1) took a 10-point advantage (38-28) when Shannon Gough made a pair of free throws with 6:08 remaining.
The Lady Bulldogs, however, chipped away at the Lady Eagles’ lead during the next couple of minutes.
At the 4:06 mark, SW junior forward Rachel Houghtaling converted a jump shot in the lane to make it a 42-35 game.
Less than a minute later, Graby was fouled under the basket. She converted both of her free throws to bring the Lady Bulldogs to within five at 42-37.
With 1:55 displayed on the scoreboard clock, Stallings scored on an offensive rebound to give the Lady Eagles a 44-37 advantage.
Sixteen seconds later, SW senior guard Sarah Lander swished a 3-pointer to bring her team to within four at 44-40.
Unfortunately for the Lady Bulldogs and the scores of fans who supported them throughout the game, that was as close as they could get in the final moments.
Burke made 8-of-10 free throws in the final 1:19 on its way to the 11-point win.
The Lady Eagles made 18-of-29 (62 percent) of their free throws during the contest, while the Lady Bulldogs were 8-of-12 (67 percent) at the foul line.
Leading Burke to the win were Stallings, who finished with 15 points, and senior guard Katie Grahn, who added 14 points.
Burke Coach Bob Turner noted that the 3-pointers by Fitzgibbons and Fogarty late in the third quarter were key factors in the game, along with his team’s defensive performance.
“Defensively, we wanted to work hard and try to prevent their outside shooting,” Turner said.
Turner noted that SW Coach Ron Bernhardt “does a great job with defensive plans.”
Turner pointed out that when the teams played their second OCIAA Division. IV game of the regular season on Feb. 15 at SW High School in Lake Huntington which SW won, 45-39, to earn a share of the division title the Lady Bulldogs’ defense limited Stallings to just five points.
“But she made her first couple of shots tonight, which was good for us,” Turner said of Stallings, who will play at Marist next year.
Lander paced the SW offense with a game-high 18 points.
Graby added nine points and Murphy had eight points for the Lady Bulldogs.
“They outrebounded us,” Bernhardt replied after being asked about the game. “They did a better job on the boards tonight.”
The veteran coach also noted that his team was hurt by several turnovers.
Although it ended with a disappointing loss, Bernhardt was quick to point out that the overall season was very positive for the Lady Bulldogs.
“We had a very good season,” he said. “We were able to beat Burke once in the regular season and share the division title.”
SW concluded the season with an 18-3 record.
Thursday night’s game marked the final contest for the Lady Bulldogs’ two seniors Lander and Jenn Pitz.
Note: Burke went on to defeat No. 1 seed Highland, 40-32, in Saturday’s Section IX Class B championship game at Orange Community College in Middletown.