By Lori Brown
GRAHAMSVILLE After winning the Section IX Class C girls’ basketball championship last year, it appeared the road back to the title game would be difficult after losing their leading scorer from last year, Jakki Pugh, to graduation.
But the Tri-Valley Lady Bears put together an impressive 16-1 regular season, and after dispatching Fallsburg in a quarterfinal game, squared off against the only team to defeat them this year, Tuxedo, in the semifinals.
It was a much-anticipated showdown which didn’t disappoint. Before a packed house in Grahamsville, Tri-Valley continued its run toward another title with a come-from-behind 38-32 victory over Tuxedo.
T-V will play No. 1 seed and undefeated John A. Coleman Catholic for the Class C championship today at 5:30 p.m. at SUNY New Paltz.
“The girls were very excited, and we never doubted ourselves, said Coach John Tenbus. “We never got nervous and stepped up with confidence. At halftime I reminded them that they worked really head to get here. In the second half the defense stepped it up. We knew we would have a big run.”
Tuxedo’s Erin Murphy grabbed a rebound and scored a basket as the buzzer sounded to end the second quarter, giving the Lady Tornadoes an 18-17 halftime lead.
Tuxedo (14-6) started the third quarter with a 10-point scoring run to take a 28-17 lead with 3:26 remaining in the quarter. But after a timeout, T-V got back on track with a suffocating defense. Tuxedo did not score for the rest of the quarter and cut the Tuxedo lead to 28-23 entering the fourth period.
After an Erin Smith basket and two free throws by Caroline Martin, T-V pulled to within a point with 4:33 remaining in the game.
At the 2:25 mark, T-V guard Katlynn Greffrath knocked down a crucial 3-point shot to put her team in the lead. In the next minute, Greffrath converted a pair of foul shots and scored another basket to give the Lady Bears some breathing room at 35-28. Tuxedo went more than eight minutes from the end of the third quarter through the fourth quarter without scoring.
With just under a minute left, Tuxedo’s Alexandra Gundermann made two foul shots to make it a 35-30 game. But the Lady Tornadoes couldn’t get any closer in the final seconds.
A scary moment for T-V occurred with 19.4 seconds on the clock. Junior forward Mareena DiMilia attempted to grab a rebound, but went down on the court and couldn’t get up. DiMilia injured her ankle and had to leave the game.
Tenbus is confident DiMilia will be ready to play in tonight’s title game.
“Mareena DiMilia will be there, nothing can take her out of the game,” he said.
In Coleman, who Tri-Valley has not played, the Bears will be going up against the 2011 State Class D champions who are now playing in Class C. The move up has certainly not impeded the Lady Statesmen as they won the MHAl title over Class A Red Hook.
“We are going to come in and play as hard as we can,” Tenbus commented. “We will never lie down.”
“I am really excited,” T-V senior center Erin Smith said. “We are going in [the championship game] with our heads up.”
While noting that “we played hard,” Tuxedo Coach Dave Powers explained that his team had problems in certain ares of the game.
“We didn’t finish, that has been our problem since we played them [before],” he said. “We struggled defensively. We only gave up 38 points; we should be winning the game.
“We had a few turnovers and they were back in the game,” Powers continued. “We missed a ton of shots. We only had six foul shots while Tri-Valley had 21 foul shots. We started rushing and we needed to slow down.”
Greffrath led the Lady Bears with a game-high 14 points.
Tuxedo’s top scorer was Erin Murphy, who had 10 points.