Frank Speziale Photo
DRYDEN – The Watkins Glen Senecas have now marched their way to three consecutive Section IV Class C girls basketball championships – using sophomore presence in Taylor Kelly to sink the game winning basket with just 16.2 seconds left.
“Honestly, I felt a couple opportunities, if the call goes our way, we end up winning,” said longtime Bainbridge-Guilford head coach Bob Conway of the close game. “There are just so many little teeny tiny things. When you lose by two, there are so many things you can talk about.”
Watkins Glen defeated the previously undefeated Bainbridge-Guilford lady Bobcats by a tight score of 37-35 – as the two phenom teams collided, leaving it all on the court for a win or go home championship game.
“It was a rough start, the girls turned it around and they played with their hearts. They left it all out on the floor. They didn't want to be done,” said Watkins Glen head coach Alicia Learn.
Drawing the soon-to-be heart breaker to a tie was eighth grader Erica Selfridge of the Bobcats, who drove to the arch – pulled back, set up her shot – sinking a long three-pointer for the 35-35 tie with just 1:45 left in the championship game on Saturday, March 4, at Tompkins Cortland Community College.
An ensuing Seneca time out at 1:43 slowed the momentum, as Watkins Glen could feel their championship hopes slipping away.
However, the Bobcats crowd would not let their team sink to a loss – they roared as B-G held their ground on the defensive end of the court with a mere 47.3 seconds left for the game to be decided – the score remained knotted at 35-35.
A Bobcat drive looked promising as B-G Sophomore star Abi Selfridge drove her way to the basket – only to be denied twice with the layup attempts.
A Seneca time out with just 19.1 seconds left following the failed offensive possession, coach Learn of Watkins Glen masterfully devised a plan for what the Senecas were hoping would be the nail in the coffin.
With 16.2 seconds left in the game, Learn entrusted the hopes of the season with sophomore Taylor Kelly – despite the team having two all-state players in senior Amanda Pike and junior Mariah Gonzalez. Kelly did not disappoint – nailing the field goal for the 37-35 lead.
"Just defensively we had to switch on everything. Communicate and just talk through it, and make sure we're on the same page,” said coach Learn of what was discussed in the final seconds of play.
An exciting final few seconds saw the lady Bobcats drive down the court, snagging a foul which sent junior Jillian Cannistra to the back line. Inbounding the pass Cannistra hit the always steady Abi Selfridge with the pass.
With the sea of defenders parting with just 4.3 seconds left in the game and the clock running, Abigail Selfridge saw her moment. Driving head-on toward the basket, and with a hopeful shot for the ages. Abi sent the ball toward the basket – and with just a half step off, the ball went off the back rim to round out and fall short.
Just like that all the hopes and dreams of the young lady Bobcat team, the undefeated season at 22-0, the MAC Championship – all fell flat. The magical ride fell short, as the Bobcats fell just shy of an overtime game and with a chance to topple the mighty Watkins Glen Senecas.
“I thought my kids played great. They’re two-time, now three-time, section four champs. My kids played their hearts out. We played a lot of the game with an eighth grader, some tenth graders and some juniors,” said coach Conway.
The lady Bobcats and Watkins Glen essentially traded powerful opening periods in the thriller. The B-G ladies took the early lead over the Senecas in the first period, leading 13-6. The Bobcats continued their powerful play early, as Abi Selfridge helped extend the lead to 17-10 with 6:03 left in the second period.
However, Watkins Glen corrected their wrongs in the opening period – Gonzalez took it upon herself – at that time Watkins Glen hadn’t scored in three minutes – when Gonzalez finally started the momentum that led to the Senecas first lead of the game.
An eight point run for Watkins Glen, capped off by Taylor Kelly who stole a B-G ball before racing down the court. In motion Kelly passed the ball to Hannah Morse who looked for a shot before resorting back to Kelly – who took the ball the rest of the way for the layup and lead at 18-17.
The Bobcats would reclaim the lead at 2:16 when Abi Selfridge hit a reverse layup to take the game to 19-18 – before Kelly again returned to reclaim the seesaw game at 20-19 with 2:00 flat left.
Watkins Glen would outscore the lady Bobcats 15-8 in the second period to take the game to a 21-21 score at the half – a slight foreshadowing of how close the game would become down the stretch.
“It's just disappointing when you lose obviously. We had some opportunities. We’d stick a couple shots in here or there, all of the sudden it’s our ball game,” said coach Conway. “They had a nice run in the first half, and they got real physical after that and kind of took us out of our offensive sets.”
The Senecas marched to a 10-6 score in the third period, taking the slight lead at the end of the period at 31-27 – before cashing in on the last moment shot, and having some luck in the missed B-G shot at the buzzer, taking the win from second-seeded Bainbridge-Guilford.
"Defensively, we stepped it up second half, and I couldn't be happier with the girls. Our offense wasn't quite like it usually is. Clare Chedzoy did a great job on number eleven, and at the end of the game she just stepped it up and did awesome defense as well as the other girls,” said coach Learn. "The plan was to attack the basket. Just go hard and draw a foul if you can. Play smart and make the better shot, and we were successful and it was good."
Adding more salt to the wound, Watkins Glen was the team that bounced Bainbridge-Guilford the past two seasons from the sectional tournament – defeating them in the quarterfinals during the 2015-2016 season, and in the finals during the 2014-2015 season.
Leading B-G in the loss was Abi Selfridge who hit a team high 12 points. Erica Selfridge and Megan Palmatier added seven points a piece. Leading the way in the win for the Senecas was Taylor Kelly and Mariah Gonzalez – who each scored 12 points.
Bainbridge-Guilford concludes their 2016-2017 season at 22-1 overall, standing as the MAC league champions, and having a regular season record of 20-0. B-G will be saying goodbye to their three seniors following the sectional loss – losing Abbi Miller, Dani Johnson, and Rebecca Reyes.
“The seniors work hard. They always come in. I’ve got to tell you, I’m going to miss them. I always miss them, they’re kids, you know. They’re going to move on. I wish them all the luck in the world,” said coach Conway.
Watkins Glen now holds an overall record of 19-2 and will play Thousand Islands (21-2 overall) on March 11, at Tompkins Cortland Community College at 3 p.m. for the state quarterfinal game.
Notably, Thousand Islands became the Section III champion when they used three overtime periods to defeat Syracuse Academy of Science (19-4 overall), on Sunday, March 5.
BG: 13 8 6 8– 35
WG: 6 15 10 6– 37
Bainbridge-Guilford: Erica Selfridge 3 0-0 7, Abigail Selfridge 7 2-3 16, Jillian Cannistra 1 0-0 3, Zamira Caldwell 1 0-0 2, Megan Palmatier 2 3-4 7. Totals:14 5-7 38.
Watkins Glen: Hannah Morse 3 1-2 7, Clara Chedzoy 0 0-0 0, Amanda Pike 1 3-4 6, Taylor Kelly 6 0-1 12, Mariah Gonzalez 6 0-0 12. Totals:16 4-7 37.
Three-pointers: B-G– E. Selfridge, Cannistra; WG– Pike.