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March 12, 2013

Shooting keys Jackets' postseason run

The Daily Star

---- — When covering a team game after game in the postseason, sometimes I’ll miss an obvious trait.

As it applies to this year’s version of the Oneonta High girls basketball team my biggest swing and a miss thus far has been failing to highlight how well this squad shoots it.

In the five games I’ve seen _ against an Maine-Endwell squad that advanced to the Class A state semifinals this past weekend, a Horseheads team that won the Section Four Class AA championship, an unbeaten Waverly team that won the Interscholastic Athletic Conference title, a Seton Catholic Central team that advanced to the Section Four Class B final and Section Three winner Utica Notre Dame on Saturday _ the Yellowjackets have hit 28 three-pointers.

Guards Mariah Ruff, Hayley Dower and Minnie Webster have combined to hit 93 of the 95 threes OHS has made this season. Ruff has 40, Dower’s at 31 and Webster’s hit 22.

“We have great shooters on this team,” said Ruff, who hit five of Oneonta’s eight threes in a 57-52 win over UND in a Class B state quarterfinal Saturday at Onondaga Community College. “When one of us isn’t hot, the other ones are. We just did a great job shooting the ball.”

And the threes have been vital for the Yellowjackets.

Dower hit four of her five threes in the first half against M-E to keep the Yellowjackets close in a Southern Tier Athletic Conference semifinal. Then OHS pulled away after halftime for a 50-34 victory.

Against Horseheads in the STAC final, Webster hit the winning three in overtime as OHS won, 57-56.

Ruff and Dower hit two threes apiece in the Yellowjackets’ 60-30 cruise past Waverly.

And the one time OHS looked average during this postseason run came when it hit one three in a 41-33 victory over SCC in the sectional final.

Though the guards are hitting the shots, Oneonta’s big people also have contributed.

Saturday’s game was a perfect example. When point guard Ruff would move to a side of the court, UND’s defenders on the weakside would sag off of their players to try to prevent entry passes to center Natalie Vanderlaan-Meyering or forward Kelsey Baker.

That led to Ruff sending three cross-court passes that led to two first-half threes by Webster and one by Dower.

There also was that go-ahead three that Ruff hit with 1:35 left that came off a kick-out from Vanderlaan-Meyering.

SEMI-TOUGH: When the Yellowjackets step on the floor at 10 a.m. Friday in a Class B state semifinal at Hudson Valley CC, they’ll face a mountain of an obstacle.

Section One’s Irvington (21-2) has four starters back from last season and is looking to win its fourth straight Class B state championship.

Included in the Bulldogs’ starting lineup is senior forward Lexi Martins, who will play for Division I Lehigh next season, and senior guard Brittni Lai, who’ll play for Division I Marist next season.

Martins had 25 points and 22 rebounds in Irvington’s 62-41 victory over Southampton in a state quarterfinal Friday at Hofstra. Lai contributed 17 points and five steals.

Oneonta (20-1) played Irvington in the 2010 Class B state final, falling, 54-33. As a freshman, Martins had 15 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks in that game and was named to the all-tournament team.

The only current OHS player who saw action in that game was Dani Nicosia, who scored five points. But it’s highly unlikely senior Nicosia will play this weekend. She’s still recovering from a concussion she suffered early in the season.

Irvington is coached by Gina Maher, who has 583 victories _ 38 behind all-time New York state leader Ray Preston of Davenport. Maher is the winningest coach in Section One history, regardless of gender. This season, she was named the Russell Athletic National Women’s Basketball Coaches Associtation District 2 Coach of the Year. She’ll be an assistant coach for the WBCA High School All-America game April 6 at New Orleans.

Oneonta and Irvington have a common opponent this season _ Pearl River. The Yellowjackets defeated Pearl River, 58-46, on Dec. 23. Irvington earned a 65-49 win over Pearl River on Jan. 16.

BY THE NUMBERS: With Saturday’s victory, OHS moved to 100 games over .500 since its run of six straight sectional titles started in the 2007-2008 season. The Yellowjackets are 119-19 during that span. … Ruff, a junior, needs 18 points to become the sixth OHS girl to score 1,000 points. Ruff actually has 1,485 points, but 503 of those came playing varsity ball for Andes as a seventh- and eighth-grader. Ruff will join Stacy Knapp (1,007), Tiffany Hurley (1,045), Madie Harlem (1,161), Sienna Wisse (1,217) and Krissy Zeh (1,698) in the Yellowjackets’ 1,000-point club.

Rob Centorani covers high school basketball for The Daily Star. Email him at