By Rob Centorani
The Daily Star
---- — BINGHAMTON _ Some days, nothing goes right.
In the case of Unatego’s girls basketball team, the best illustration of its struggles Saturday came during the opening moments of the second half of a 60-36 loss to Harpursville in the Section Four Class C final at the Broome County Arena.
The Spartans had little success in their man-to-man defense in the opening half against Midstate Athletic Conference rival Harpursville. So they switched to zone after halftime and Miranda Drummond and Shelby Medovich hit three-pointers 1 minute, 40 seconds apart early in the third quarter.
So much for the zone.
It became clear after those shots fell that Unatego’s highly successful season was about to become a memory.
“Harpursville has a lot of experience on this floor,” Spartans coach Greg Bonczkowski said of a Hornets his squad beat twice during the season by scores of 51-44 (Jan. 11) and 54-50 (Feb. 7). “This is the first time any of my girls had stepped foot on this floor. That’s huge in a game like this and they got off to a fast start.”
The sixth-seeded Hornets (18-3) earned their second sectional title in three years. They’ve also played in the Class C final for the third straight season. Conversely, the last time fifth-seeded Unatego (17-5) made it to a sectional final, Ronald Reagan was starting his second term in office. The year was 1985.
“I think it says a lot about this team that it was able to get to this game for the first time in 28 years,” Bonczkowski said. “For the core group, the five seniors (Casey Manzanero, Sarah Mannina, Robin Foster, Kayla Talbot and Michaela Reynolds), it was a tremendous season.”
Everything you needed to know about Saturday’s final happened in the first three minutes.
From the outset, every time Harpursville grabbed a defensive rebound coach Kurt Ehrensbeck repeatedly yelled, “Push it!”
Well, as Harpursville scored the first eight points, Drummond and Medovich scored fastbreak layups. Espy Gutierrez opened the scoring on a putback, another theme as the Hornets pursued offensive rebounds aggressively.
Medovich also hit a wide-open 17-footer off a kick-out from Drummond during the early stretch. The Hornets had plenty of quality looks in building a 33-21 halftime lead.
But perhaps the biggest difference was Drummond, a junior forward who scored 27 points.
When Harpursville lost, 54-50, at Unatego in a MAC semifinal, Drummond sat close to half the game in foul trouble. This time, she stayed away from fouls and showed why she’s widely regarded as the best player in the MAC.
She hit eight field goals, with seven coming in the paint. Drummond continually attacked the basket and scored or set up her teammates for easy looks.
“Outside shots are a lower percentage than when we drive,” said Drummond, who helped the Hornets advance to the Class C state final as a freshman. “We had to get to the basket. That’s what we wanted.”
Added Bonczkowski: “She was clearly the best player on the floor.”
It appeared Unatego might have a chance to get back into this one when Manzanero and sophomore Cassidy Newman scored on old-fashioned three-point plays 15 seconds apart in the second quarter.
Manzanero, who became the fourth Unatego girl to exceed 1,000 varsity points this season, scored on a putback and was fouled. Newman then received a pass from Mannina and scored in transition as she was fouled. Her free throw made it 29-21 with 2 ½ minutes left in the first half.
But Harpursville, which has scored at least 53 points in all four of its sectional victories, scored the final four points of the half and after the early threes by Drummond and Medovich in the third quarter, the Hornets led, 39-23. Unatego trailed by at least 14 points the rest of the way.
Manzanero, Foster and Marissa Woodard scored eight points apiece for the Spartans, who received six points each from Mannina and Newman.
Bonczkowski said Manzanero and Foster have plans to continue playing in college.
“They were a pleasure to work with and they came and worked hard at practice everyday,” Bonczkowski said of his seniors, many of whom also helped the Spartans to a sectional soccer title in the fall. “I’m going to miss them.”
Next for Harpursville is a Class C quarterfinal at 1 p.m. Saturday at Oneonta State against Section Three champion Cooperstown (20-2).
“They beat up on Weedsport pretty good,” Ehrensbeck said of the Redskins’ 59-44 victory Thursday in the Section Three final. “They’re going to be tough. It’ll be a challenge for us.”
SECTION FOUR CLASS C
Final at Broome County Arena
6-HARPURSVILLE (18-3): Shelby Medovich 6 0-2 13, Holly Henry 1 0-0 2, Esperanza Gutierrez 1 2-2 4, Savannah Murray 3 4-5 10, Tatiana Sosnowsky 2 0-0 4, Miranda Drummond 8 10-15 27. TOTALS: 21 16-24 60.
5-UNATEGO (17-5): Robin Foster 4 0-0 8, Casey Manzanero 1 6-9 8, Sarah Mannina 3 0-0 6, Cassidy Newman 2 2-3 6, Marissa Woodard 4 0-0 8, Kayla Talbot 0 0-0 0. TOTALS: 14 8-12 36.
Harpursville 16 17 16 11 _ 60
Unatego 7 14 10 5 _ 36
Three-point field goals: H 2 (Medovich, Drummond).
Rob Centorani can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 607-432-1000, ext. 209.