The Daily Star
---- — By Dean Russin
ONEONTA — Jordan Beers just wanted to have fun Wednesday night.
It’s safe to say the area scoring leader had a blast then.
Senior guard Beers finished with a game-high 24 points, the bulk of her damage coming in the first half, to lead the Franklin girls basketball team to a 39-30 Section Four Class D semifinal victory over South Kortright in a battle of undefeated state-ranked powers at Oneonta State.
“It was a great, great game,” said Beers, who brought a 25.5 points-per-game scoring average into a sectional semifinal that featured two of the state’s best teams — top-ranked South Kortright against third-ranked Franklin — going head-to-head for a chance to face Southern Cayuga in the Section Four Class D championship game Saturday back at O-State.
“Everyone was looking forward to it,” Beers continued. “During the day, we were all excited just to come out and get a chance to play. Give them a lot of credit, they’re a tough team — very athletic and very quick and they can hit the outside shot. They deserve to be here just as much as we do. Just a fun game to play.”
Beers opened the festivities by driving down the left side of the paint for a transition layup with 6 minutes, 48 seconds to go in the first quarter.
The second-seeded Rams (19-1) answered with back-to-back baskets from Brianna Laing, who then found Tori Rockefeller for a pull-up off the glass and a 6-2 lead about a minute-and-a-half later.
Another Beers lay-in on a drive through the left seam pulled Franklin to 6-4, but Laing followed with another assist as Savannah Hobbie scored from the right block with 4:32 remaining in the first quarter to restore the Rams’ four-point edge.
The teams combined to shoot 0-for-12 from the field over the next 3:35, with the Purple Devils missing seven shots. Paige Fairchilds hit a short shot from the left side of the baseline with 57 seconds left in the first quarter to end the drought and spark an 18-2 Franklin run.
“We started out in that box-and-one on Tori and I thought we were fairly effective, but we were giving up some shots in the foul-line area,” Franklin coach Mike Dutcher said. “I think that switch to the 3-2 (zone), I think we took that away a little bit. We did a better job with one-shot mentality in that second and third quarters. Not giving them new shots clocks, I think that was key in those quarters.”
Beers closed her nine-point first quarter with a three-point swish from the right wing at the buzzer, giving defending Section Four Class D champion Franklin (19-0) the lead for keeps, at 11-10.
She had nine more points in the second quarter, when the Purple Devils outscored SK, 14-2, to take a 25-12 lead into halftime.
“I don’t know if South Kortright has ever been held to two points in one quarter,” said Dutcher, whose team got its other second-quarter points from senior center Marisa Cawley. “We’ve got to credit our defense for that.”
“We switched our defense up and we just came out hard,” she said. “That’s what we’ve been saying all season is defense. That second quarter, we really stepped it up on defense, limited their shots and their drives and their second chances.”
Franklin’s momentum carried over into the third quarter, extending its lead to 33-16 with a modest 8-4 run. Cawley had six points in the period, hitting a deep turnaround in the paint and a pair of pull-up jumpers from close range.
“It’s a whole different ballgame,” Cawley said when asked how much of an advantage Franklin has when she and Beers are contributing on offense. “I think since we’re seniors, we’re just trying to enjoy each other’s company on the court because it’s the last time we’re going to play together.”
The Rams didn’t go quietly, however, opening the final quarter on a 12-4 run that prompted Dutcher to call a timeout with 2:56 left. Reserve Sam Acuna scored all eight of her points during the spurt, which ended with a putback by Hobbie as SK trimmed its deficit to single digits, at 37-28.
Neither team scored again until Beers sank a pull-up jumper in the paint with 43.9 seconds left to effectively end it. Rockefeller capped the scoring on a layup off a steal at mid-court with 13.4 seconds to go to match Acuna for team-high scoring honors with eight points.
Rockefeller had a particularly miserable shooting night, finishing 4-for-26 from the floor — including 0-for-9 from three-point range. The Rams finished 15-for-61 from the field and 0-for-0 at the foul line, although they held a whopping 45-28 advantage in rebounds. Rockefeller tied teammate Lexi DuBois for game-high rebounding honors with 13 apiece, and SK got 12 more from Hobbie.
Cawley finished with a double-double, complementing her 11 points with 10 rebounds while patrolling the paint.
Franklin will try to make it two sectional titles in a row Saturday, when the Tri-Valley League champions take on top-seeded and ninth-ranked Southern Cayuga (18-2) of the Interscholastic Athletic Conference.
“It’s not about state rankings, it’s how you play that night,” Cawley said. “That determines the game and probably your future in basketball. We have to play defense like we always do and we can’t let them get second shots.
“Our goal Saturday is just play defense,” she continued. “If we play defense, then our offense comes in sync. Defense wins the games. So we’ve just got to stay together on defense and run. That’s pretty much all we do.”
Franklin 39, SK 30
SECTION FOUR CLASS D
Semifinal at Oneonta State
3-FRANKLIN (19-0): Jessica Downin 0 0-0 0, Paige Fairchilds 1 0-0 2, Marisa Cawley 5 1-2 11, Mariah McNeilly 0 0-0 0, Jordan Beers 9 5-7 24, Mara Stalter 1 0-0 2. TOTALS: 16 6-9 39.
2-SOUTH KORTRIGHT (19-1): Kayla Warycha 0 0-0 0, Tori Rockefeller 4 0-0 8, Brianna Laing 2 0-0 4, Sam Acuna 4 0-0 8, Kaitlyn Stinson 0 0-0 0, Lexi DuBois 3 0-0 6, Savannah Hobbie 2 0-0 4, Ashley Warycha 0 0-0 0. TOTALS: 15 0-0 30.
Franklin11 14 8 6 - 39
South Kortright10 2 4 14 - 30
Three-point field goals: F 1 (Beers). Rebounds: F 28 (Cawley 10); S 45 (Rockefeller 13, DuBois 13, Hobbie 12).
Dean Russin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 607-432-1000, ext. 215.