By Rob Potter
NEWBURGH Days after winning their first Section IX basketball title in 31 years, the Tri-Valley Lady Bears saw their season end on Thursday evening at Mount Saint Mary College in Newburgh.
The Section I Class C champion Haldane Lady Blue Devils defeated T-V, 64-40, in the opening round of the state playoffs.
In front of hundreds of loyal T-V fans who made the trip to Newburgh, the Lady Bears got off to a good start as senior guard Jakki Pugh scored the game’s opening basket while being fouled with 7:38 remaining in the first quarter.
Pugh missed her free throw, however, and Haldane’s Erin Percacciolo grabbed the rebound. With 6:28 displayed on the clock, Haldane’s Sam Lisikotos made a 3-point shot to put her team ahead.
Eleven seconds later, Pugh answered for the Lady Bears to put the Section IX champions up by a point at 4-3.
After Haldane (17-3) took a small lead, T-V’s Mareena DiMilia swished a baseline jump shot to make it a 9-6 game with 4:30 to go in the opening quarter. Pugh scored 17 seconds after that to again bring the Lady Bears within a point.
Following a basket by Haldane’s Rose Mackey, Pugh made a 3-point shot to even the score at 11-11.
But the Lady Blue Devils went on an 8-1 scoring run to take a 19-12 lead into the second quarter.
Haldane outscored the Lady Bears 22-11 in those eight minutes to take a 41-23 advantage at halftime.
Consecutive baskets by Vanesa Minardi extended Haldane’s lead to 32-17 midway through the second period.
With 1:53 to go, Pugh stepped up to the foul line for a 1-and-1 and calmly swished both of her shots to cut the Lady Blue Devils’ lead to 10 at 33-23.
But in the time remaining before the half, Mackey and Liz Milner both swished shots from beyond the 19-foot, 9-inch arc and Minardi made an 18-foot jump shot with one second on the clock to give Haldane its 18-point lead.
Early in the third quarter, Erin Smith scored a basket in the lane, Pugh made a free throw and DiMilia swished a 3-pointer to bring the Lady Bears within 13 points at 41-28.
Unfortunately for the Lady Bears and their fans, that was as close as they would be for the rest of the game. Haldane ended the quarter with a 9-0 scoring run keyed by Milner and Lisikotos.
Midway through the fourth quarter, Milner and Lisikotos made consecutive 3-point shots to help the Lady Blue Devils extend their lead to 58-31.
With 1:45 remaining, Pugh, who earlier this season became the top scorer in T-V girls’ basketball history, left the game. As Coach John Tenbus hugged Pugh in an emotional moment, the T-V fans applauded Pugh and began chanting “Jakki, Jakki” and “MVP.”
Pugh, who ended her scholastic career with 1,167 points, led T-V with 17 points, while DiMilia netted six points and Smith added five points.
Nicole Bradley had four points and Keira McHugh added three points for the Lady Bears, who ended their season with an 18-2 record.
Pugh also took on the difficult task of defending Milner, who paced Haldane with 21 points and will be playing basketball for NCAA Div. I Fordham University next season.
“Those three shots they got right before halftime hurt us,” Tenbus said. “Haldane has a great team and they are well-coached.”
While the rest of the players on the Lady Bears’ roster should return next season, Pugh will be missed by everyone on the team.
“Jakki carried this team on her back this season,” Tenbus said. “She was able to make 3-point shots, drive to the basket and play defense.
“We are all very proud of her.”
Two other Lady Blue Devils scored in double digits. Lisikotos finished with 14 points, including four 3-pointers, and Minardi added 11 points.
Mackey had eight points for Haldane.
“We have several players who can shoot the ball,” Haldane Coach Tyrone Searight said. “I thought we played great defense.”
Searight also noted that the Lady Bears played good defense throughout the game.