TROY — As Meghan Strong’s second 3-pointer of the third quarter splashed into the net to give AuSable Valley a two-point lead, it looked as if her team had all the momentum.
The Patriots had stormed back from a nine-point deficit with a barrage of triples, but that hot shooting quickly turned cold.
AuSable Valley managed just two points the rest of the way and Bishop Kearney pulled away for a 56-41 victory in the NYSPHSAA Class C girls’ basketball semifinals at Hudson Valley Community College Saturday. The win puts the Kings (18-8), the Section V champion, into today’s title game against Harpursville.
While the Patriots’ 2012-13 campaign comes to an end, it was undoubtedly a banner year for the team. AuSable Valley (19-3) captured its first Section VII title in 20 years and knocked off Hoosic Valley, the defending state champion and top-ranked team in the state, in regional play.
“Couldn’t be more proud,” said Strong, a sophomore who led AuSable Valley with 14 points on Saturday. “This is what we’ve been working for since Day 1. We played our best and I think we have nothing to hang our heads about.
“I think we’re going to be back here next year for the championship game.”
But while AuSable Valley matched up well with Hoosic Valley, it entered Saturday’s game with a noticeable size disadvantage. In the early stages, that didn’t matter with neither team able to hold onto the ball or shoot well, and the first quarter ended tied at 9-all.
The game picked up in the second quarter, and AuSable Valley led briefly, 16-15, on sophomore Madison Rondeau’s 3-pointer. Emmanuella Edoka answered with a triple of her own. That wasn’t the last time she would do that in the quarter. After a Strong triple cut the deficit to four, Edoka hit from deep again to send Bishop Kearney into the half up 28-21.
The two teams traded field goals to open the second half before AuSable Valley went to work. Taylor Saltus — who ended up having to sit for a long stretch in the frame after picking up her fourth foul — drained a corner three. Haley Taylor went along the baseline for a layup, and Strong connected from downtown for a short-lived lead.
Taylor scored inside again to regain the lead before a putback from Kharysma Bryant and a layup from Skyler Gausney-Jones gave the Kings a 36-33 advantage.
Logan Snow hit her lone field goal of the game —a 3-pointer — and after Gausney-Jones made a free throw, Strong connected on her fourth triple of the game for a 39-37 lead with 1:25 left in the third.
“We were moving the ball well,” Strong said. “The defense wasn’t adjusting to us. Quick ball movement; we were hitting all of our shots and it was working for us.”
But it would be a while before the Patriots found the scoreboard again. Bishop Kearney scored 11 unanswered points until Saltus hit a floater — the only points for AuSable Valley in the fourth — with 3:40 left in the game.
“I had a feeling if we could keep it up we’d be in good shape, but I think we exerted a ton of energy in that third quarter to get ourselves back in the game,” AuSable Valley coach Roger Long said. “It was a high of getting back into the game and a low of realizing how much we exerted to get there.”
Taylor finished with eight points and seven rebounds for the Patriots, who are ranked sixth in the state. The only other senior on the roster, Sierra Snow, added six points and six rebounds. Both of them had three steals.
Gausney-Jones led Bishop Kearney, ranked fourth in the state, with a game-high 23 points, and Bryant added 13 points and seven rebounds. Edoka scored 12 of her 14 points in the first half and added a game-high 13 rebounds. The Kings shot 43 percent from the field, while AuSable Valley hit on 33 percent.
“They worked for it all year and to get where they are now, obviously no team from AuSable has ever done it before, very few others from Section VII have been able to do this, so I’m proud of that accomplishment,” Long said. “I also think that we represented Section VII very well when we came down here.”
Bishop Kearney 56, AuSable Valley 41
AuSable Valley (41)
Strong 5-0-14, Saltus 2-0-5, L. Snow 1-0-3, Taylor 4-0-8, Rondeau 2-0-5, S. Snow 3-0-6, McCabe 0-0-0, Douglass 0-0-0. Totals: 17-0-41.
Bishop Kearney (56)
Bryant 6-1-13, Smith 0-0-0, Gausney-Jones 8-7-23, Hawks 0-4-4, McCullough 1-0-2, Edoka 5-2-14. Totals: 20-14-56.
AuSable Valley 9 12 18 2 — 41
Bishop Kearney 9 19 13 15 — 56
3-point goals: AVC (7) Strong 4, Saltus, Snow, Rondeau. BK (2) Edoka.