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March 4, 2013

Jackets make it six in a row

BINGHAMTON — It’s odd when a team almost apologizes for winning a sectional championship, especially when it’s the sixth straight such title — a streak that is two longer than any other in Section Four girls basketball history.

But there stood Oneonta High standout Mariah Ruff and senior teammate Kelsey Baker on Saturday at the Broome County Arena talking about a Yellowjackets offense that didn’t seem worthy of the team’s 19-1 record.

But after an evening of uncertain ballhandling, ill-advised passes, and poor shooting from the field and the free throw line, one aspect that has been the cornerstone of the Yellowjackets’ success these past half-dozen seasons held firm.

Defense.

What top-seeded Oneonta’s 41-33 victory over No. 2 Seton Catholic Central in the Section Four Class B final lacked in beauty it made up for in effort, especially at the defensive end.

“I think our defense kind of saved us because offensively, Seton kind of adjusted to the way we play,” said Baker, a 5-10 forward who scored nine of Oneonta’s first 13 points.

It’s not the first time OHS has leaned heavily on point prevention during this streak. In fact, none of the Yellowjackets’ opponents in their six sectional finals scored more than 40 points. Four of them failed to crack the 33-point barrier and two were held to 27 points.

Remember, these aren’t run-of-the-mill, regular-season opponents. These are the best the section has to offer and all struggled to score against the Yellowjackets.

“We all knew we were struggling on the offensive end,” said Ruff, who scored a game-high 14 points but admittedly, played one of her poorest games in an OHS uniform. “We were missing shots we normally make, so we played hard on defense.”

It seems unlikely, however, that if OHS undergoes offensive hardships similar to what it experienced Saturday, that its season will last much longer. The Yellowjackets will face Section Three champion Utica Notre Dame at 4 p.m. Saturday in a Class B state quarterfinal at Onondaga Community College.

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