OTEGO – Casey Manzanero had nothing to lose at the foul line with 3 seconds left Tuesday night.
That’s because 18 seconds earlier, she made the free throws that mattered most.
“I guess I need to have that little, ‘OK you need to make this or you have a chance of losing,’ “ said senior swingplayer Manzanero, who hit both ends of a 1-and-1 opportunity at the foul line with 21 seconds left to cap the scoring in Unatego’s 48-44 Section Four Class C girls basketball semifinal win over Newfield.
“I try not to think about it really,” continued Manzanero, who clanged her last two free throw attempts off the rim with 3 seconds to go and the Spartans holding a four-point lead. “I try not to think about it because I really don’t like the pressure – even though I missed those last two with no pressure. The best thing to do is just think about practice and just shoot your foul shots.”
Newfield’s Megan Pakkala rebounded Manzanero’s second miss but could only advance the ball to halfcourt before the buzzer sounded as fourth-seeded Unatego (17-4) advanced to a Section Four championship game for the first time since 1985.
“It was that long ago,” said Spartans coach Greg Bonczkowski, whose team will play sixth-seeded Midstate Athletic Conference rival Harpursville or No. 2 seed Elmira Notre Dame of the Interscholastic Athletic Conference for the sectional title at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Broome County Arena in Binghamton. Harpursville was scheduled to visit END on Tuesday, but poor weather pushed their semifinal back to today.
“I’ve been coach here for nine years and this round is as far as we’ve got,” Bonczkowski continued. “We’ve had a good season, but we want to compete and give our best effort. For them to have this opportunity, I’m very happy for them.”