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Sports Archives The Altamont Enterprise, March 24, 2011
Class C playoff run ends
By Jordan J. Michael
TROY Senior Brittanie Denman said that her Voorheesville Blackbirds were, at many times, an “underdog” this season. But that did not stop the team from winning in the playoffs and getting all the way to the state semi-final.
The Lady Birds played the small-fry role again last Saturday at Hudson Valley Community College, going up against undefeated Gananda from Section V, which had an all-senior starting line-up. The winner would move to the Class C finals on Sunday; the Panthers won that game and are state champs.
The Panthers made a statement in the first quarter of Saturday’s game, grabbing a 17-to-2 lead. Shannon McGinnis emerged as go-to girl for Gananda, attacking the boards and sinking shots from both inside and outside. She had 22 points and 11 rebounds at halftime.
Voorheesville struggled with Gananda’s defensive press, looking disoriented on offense. Head Coach Robert Baron had prepared for the 1-2-2 defense, he said after the 66-to-52 loss, but the Birds seemed confused. The Panthers had a 37-to-19 lead after the first half.
“We never got the right touches,” Baron said. “We were in deep trouble after the first half, playing from behind. It was too big of a hole.”
Senior Jane Pritchard told The Enterprise that Voorheesville had seen the same type of defensive press when it played against Holy Names during the regular season. “We came out nervous and didn’t make smart choices with the ball,” she said of the semi-final game. “Things started getting better as time moved on.”
Gananda, which beat Harpursville, 61 to 51, on Sunday for the championship, picked apart Voorheesville’s defense led by McGinnis, who finished the game with 33 points and 18 rebounds. She got aid from Melissa Reeves, who scored 19 points while grasping 13 boards.
The Blackbirds got 17 points from junior Sarah Madden, 14 from Denman, and 11 from sophomore Anna Feller. McGinnis and Reeves out-rebounded Voorheesville’s entire team, 31 to 23.
“Our play slowed up, and slowed up some more,” Denman said of the first quarter. “There was definitely some nervousness going on.”
The Panthers were extremely quick, but Pritchard said that her team had seen quickness like that in previous games. “Our passing was bad,” she said.
“We didn’t take care of the ball,” said Coach Baron. “There’s a lot of pressure on a big stage like this. We learned from it.”
Tony Morabito, Gananda’s head coach, was a little surprised by his team’s start, but very pleased. “We opened it up big,” he said. “We had some quickness over them and that press has worked well for us over the years.”
After scouting the Birds, Morabito expected more post play from Madden and Feller, both 6 feet tall. Instead, Voorheesville put up jump shots.
“We talked about going inside, but every time they would drop in a double team,” Baron said of the Panthers’ defense. “They didn’t want us to have those touches.”
Gananda’s fury in the first half seemed to pave the way for a relaxing victory as long as the team continued to make baskets. However, Voorheesville did not back down and made Gananda sweat for the win.
“It’s never like us to quit,” said Pritchard. “That was an uncharacteristic first half. We gave it our best shot.”
The Panthers got into some foul trouble towards the end of the third quarter and Feller made four free throws in a row to get her team within striking distance at 51 to 44. But, Reeves put Gananda back up by nine with a lay-up. Voorheesville had cut its deficit in half.
Tough one-on-one defense got the Blackbirds to within seven points, but McGinnis and Reeves kept making plays for the Panthers. “We couldn’t get past that seven-point barrier,” Baron said.
Denman said she got “excited” when she heard Morabito yell for his team to pick it up from the sidelines. “We got as close as we could,” said Denman. “We were worn out by that point.”
Audrey Allen made a three-pointer to put Gananda back on top by 13 points, and it felt like the final dagger for Voorheesville.
“My girls don’t fold,” Morabito said. “We panicked a little but the final results are what’s important.”
“I’m disappointed, but not crushed,” said Pritchard, who will graduate with Denman in June. “We’ve learned a lot.”
The Lady Birds have a bright future and the experience from this season should carry over. Melissa Bogart, Jillian Clark, Mariel McGinnis, Jennifer Cillis, Malerie McGinnis, Emily Blow, Feller, and Madden will remain with the team.
“Everyone’s coming back,” Blow said. “We know what to expect now.”
Baron was proud of how far Voorheesville has come since he started coaching the team four years ago. The team was in the basement when he arrived.
“We elevated our game,” said Baron. “They always play till the final buzzer. What more could you ask for? I love my team.”