NEW PALTZ Despite a valiant effort, the Tri-Valley Lady Bears were unable to fulfill their goal of repeating as the Section IX Class C girls’ basketball champions.
The top-seeded John A. Coleman Catholic High School Stateswomen were simply too big, too deep and too good in easily trouncing T-V, 56-28, in Friday evening’s title game at SUNY New Paltz.
Coleman (21-0), the 2010-11 State Class D champions, advances to meet the Section I champion in an opening round game of the Class C state playoffs at 6:30 p.m. tomorrow at the Westchester County Center in White Plains. After winning four consecutive Section iX Class D titles, the Statesmen were moved up to Class C this season.
If anything the step up in class has made Coleman even better. The Statesmen knocked off Class A and B schools in Red Hook and Marlboro to claim the MHAL title
“They have a really good team,” T-V Coach John Tenbus said of the Stateswomen. “If one player doesn’t make a shot, another girl steps right up and makes the shot. They just have a lot of scorers.”
Actually, defense may have been more of a factor in Coleman’s win more than shooting as they converted numerous steals and turnovers into transition baskets. In the first half alone, Coleman’s pressure defense forced T-V into 23 turnovers
Despite the mistakes, the Lady Bears played Coleman virtually even through the first 16 minutes.
Senior center Erin Smith scored nearly half of T-V’s points in the first period. The Bears (18-2) actually led briefly when Katlynn Greffrath stole the ball near halfcourt and passed it to Mareena DiMilia, who drove to the basket for a layup for a 7-6 advantage.
On the next Lady Bears’ possession, Greffrath scored after grabbing an offensive rebound to give her team a 9-6 lead with 2:51 to go in the quarter.
But Coleman responded quickly. Kate Shults made a foul shot with 2:24 on the clock and teammate Makenzie Burud swished a 3-point shot 20 seconds later to give the Lady Stateswomen a 10-9 lead they would never relinquish.
The Stateswomen had a 14-11 lead to begin the second quarter, but T-V twice pulled to within a point early in the period. With only four seconds elapsed in the stanza, Smith made a pair of free throws to cut Coleman’s advantage to 14-13.
Nearly a minute later, Burud made a jump shot from close range to give Coleman a 16-13 lead. Smith answered with a basket in the paint at the 6:55 mark to make it a 16-15 game.
But Coleman, utilizing its superior depth and size (the Statesmen front line goes 6-2, 6-2 and 6-4) went on a 22-4 to take a 38-19 advantage at halftime. Burud scored eight of her game-high 25 points during the quarter.
Both teams went cold in the third period as Coleman managed only seven points and Smith scored T-V’s lone basket. Even so, the Stateswomen had a commanding 45-21 lead going into the final eight minutes.
While Tenbus and his players were understandably disappointed with the game’s outcome, the coach chose to focus on the positives of the season. One of those highlights was earning a share of the Orange County Interscholastic Athletic Association (OCIAA) Division V title.
“It was a great year,” Tenbus said. “One of the things that I told the girls is that we define our own success. We don’t need a [Section IX] championship plaque for it to be a successful season. We won 18 games and a share of the division title, so we had a successful year.
“And these girls didn’t quit tonight,” he added. “They worked hard for 32 minutes.”
Since most of the Lady Bears are underclassmen, the team has a very good chance to be successful again next season.
“We will miss our three seniors Hope Costa, Sarah Schneyer and Erin Smith but we have eight girls coming back next year,” Tenbus said. “Hopefully, we can get back here next year.”
Smith, who led the Lady Bears with 14 points, and her teammates knew it would be a challenge to face Coleman, which was moved up to Class C this season after winning the Section IX Class D championship four years in a row and the State Class D title in 2010-11.
“We knew they could shoot the ball very well,” Smith said. “So in practice, we worked on defending every shot. I think we came out tonight and tried to defend them the best we could.
“I’m proud of all of the girls on this team,” Smith added. “We all played hard and did our best all season. Good luck to the girls coming back next season and good luck to Coleman in states.”