SYRACUSE — With less than two minutes left and the score tied, Cooperstown’s girls had the basketball, the momentum and an upset brewing.
Then everything fell apart for the fifth-seeded Hawkeyes, whose season ended with a 58-50 loss to top-seeded Little Falls in a Section Three Class C semifinal Sunday at Onondaga Community College.
Liz Millea drove the lane for a chance to snap a 50-all deadlock with 1:54 remaining, but she missed a layup. Millea missed the putback, too, then watched the ball bounce away as she dived for the rebound.
The Mounties recovered the loose ball and took the lead for keeps on a transition layup by Amy Hart with 1:15 left.
Cooperstown lost the ball out of bounds on its next possession. Millea nearly got it back, but she was called for a reach-in foul while swiping the ball from behind Little Falls’ Gen Schoff.
“I don’t think it was a foul,” Cooperstown coach Mike Niles said. “Any player is going to try to make that same play and any coach is going to coach that play. She just came up behind her and stole the ball.”
Schoff then found Hannah Becker in the right corner for a three-point field goal and a 55-50 lead with 46 seconds to go.
The Mounties (21-0) followed with three free throws, capping an 8-0 run that sent them into the Section Three Class C championship game opposite Fabius-Pompey on Friday at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse.
“Cooperstown definitely has some outstanding players,” Little Falls coach Pam Munger said. “They played a great game. They made it a little difficult for us, but we did what we needed to do.”
Cooperstown erased a 41-29 deficit in the third quarter with an 11-0 run that ended with a three-pointer by Maggie Hall, tying the score with 6:16 remaining.
Becker needed 17 seconds to put the Mounties back on top, hitting one of her four three-pointers for a 44-41 lead. Although Cooperstown failed to regain the advantage, the Hawkeyes tied the score two more times in the final period. Millea scored off a turnover to make it 48-all with 2:46 left, then made a pair of free throws with 2:05 to play for a 50-50 tie.
Little Falls held the defending Section Three Class C champions scoreless the rest of the way to earn its third victory of the season over the Hawkeyes (14-7).
Millea finished with 18 points and seven rebounds for Cooperstown, which jumped to a 12-6 lead in the first quarter but gave up two straight two-pointers to end the period. The Mounties pulled to 24-23 at halftime, then took control with an 18-10 advantage in the third quarter. Although Millea scored the first basket of the second half, Little Falls followed with an 18-3 run en route to a 41-34 lead after three quarters.
“We showed a lot of guts,” said Niles, who added that Little Falls had big runs in the third quarters of their first two meetings as well. “I thought they had such a strong effort. They made their run in the third quarter and we came all the way back. When you get right down to it, it was a pretty classic game between Cooperstown and Little Falls in the sectional playoffs.”
Hall contributed 16 points and fellow senior Lucy Ford finished with eight points, nine rebounds and four blocks, who also will lose S.J. Morosko to graduation.
“I hate to have it end for our seniors,” said Niles, whose team is the first this season to lose by single digits to Little Falls. “Maggie had a great game. She is such a complete player and she’s a great defender. I don’t think we would have been in it without her.”
Kelli Shepardson’s 15 points paced Little Falls, which received 12 points from Becker, 11 from Schoff and 10 from junior-varsity call-up Maria Morotti, a freshman.
Schoff, who played the entire second half in foul trouble, also had eight rebounds and five blocks.
LF 58, Cooperstown 50
SECTION THREE CLASS C
Semifinal at Onondaga CC
5-COOPERSTOWN (14-7): Christina Noto 0 0-0 0, Liz Millea 6 6-8 18, S.J. Morosko 0 0-0 0, Mallory Arthurs 2 0-2 4, Jennifer Flynn 0 2-2 2, Maggie Hall 6 1-1 16, Lucy Ford 4 0-0 8, Ciara McGoldrick 1 0-0 2. TOTALS: 19 9-13 50.
1-LITTLE FALLS (21-0): Kelli Shepardson 7 1-3 15, Gen Schoff 4 3-5 11, Amy Hart 3 2-4 8, Sarah Bruins 0 0-2 2, Hannah Becker 4 0-0 12, Laura Wind 0 0-0 0, Maria Morotti 5 0-0 10. TOTALS: 23 8-16 58.
Cooperstown 12 12 10 16 - 50
Little Falls 10 13 18 17 - 58
Three-point field goals: C 3 (Hall 3); L 4 (Becker 4).