By Dean Russin Sports Editor
The Daily Star
---- — ONEONTA — The spotlight isn’t big enough for Mariah Ruff, especially when just about everybody else is scoring, too.
Division I-bound Ruff scored 11 of her game-high 22 points in the first quarter Wednesday night, leading host Oneonta High to a 60-51 girls basketball victory over Southern Tier Athletic Conference rival Norwich.
Brie Baker, Meg Burns, Rachel Wessells and Madison Miller also scored inside the first eight minutes, helping the Yellowjackets (11-1, 9-0) to a 20-6 lead after one period.
“If we want to go to the next level, we have to start getting some consistency and some production from some other kids,” said OHS coach Matt Miller, who received 10 points from Brittney Herrick and seven apiece from Baker and Abby Picinich. “There are kids who can step up and score for us, and this was a confidence-booster for some of those kids.”
Breanna Cashman hit a three-point field goal from the top of the key 3 minutes, 12 seconds into the game to give Norwich its final lead, at 6-5.
Ruff soon sparked Oneonta’s 15-0 run to close the first quarter with a three-point play, following her own miss for an and-one putback with 3:28 to go in the first. Ruff then penetrated to set up Madison Miller for a close basket and made two free throws before Wessells turned a steal into a short lay-in for a 14-6 cushion.
Baker dropped in a three-pointer from the right corner and Ruff did the same from the left wing to cap the first-quarter scoring for the Jackets, whose full-court press forced seven turnovers over the final two minutes of the period.
“It’s important to come out strong,” said Ruff, who will play for St. Bonaventure next season. “I thought we did a pretty good job of that. I thought we did a great job. A lot of people stepped up and we played good basketball.”
The Purple Tornado came right back with an 8-2 run to start the second quarter, but Herrick and Picinich got involved to keep defending STAC and Section Four Class B champion OHS ahead.
Herrick made three baskets — including two off assists from Picinich — in her seven-point second quarter. She closed the first half with a three-point play, drawing a foul and making the free throw after banking in a mid-range shot to give OHS a 37-23 lead at the break.
Picinich also went to the bank in the last 30 seconds, chunking in a three from the top of the key as her floor-mates were slow to set up a play with the clock winding down. The shot gave Picinich five points, which matched Ruff’s production in the quarter.
“We were all so into it,” said Picinich, who probably got a little extra floor time with OHS starter Maria DiMartin sidelined by a concussion from Saturday’s non-league victory over Kingston. “Sometimes we come out a little bit stale, but today, we came out on fire and we kept it throughout the whole, entire game.
“I definitely had butterflies,” she continued. “With Maria out, (Matt Miller) really wanted us to step up. They just got me open and I just stopped and finished it.”
Norwich didn’t really threaten much in the second half, but it made five three-pointers to more or less prevent a blowout.
“I feel like every time we play them is the perfect storm,” said Norwich coach Josh Bennett, whose team fell to OHS earlier this season. “Everything that can go wrong goes wrong. That’s what it felt like tonight. Loose ball? Jumps right into their kids’ hands and they can put it back. ... It just seems like every time we play them, the ball bounces their way.”
Oneonta’s double-digit point spread for all but the very end of the second half did little to quiet the incessant chanting and spirited back-and-forth from each school’s student section. Fans often did what they could — such as whistle, scream and wave their arms — to distract foul shooters as this high school girls basketball game seemed to draw a crowd better suited for March Madness.
“Our kids get up for this game,” Matt Miller said. “Norwich-Oneonta is kind of that matchup that the kids just get really excited about.”
Ruff added that the atmosphere was exactly what OHS needed to experience.
“It’s a lot of fun. I wish a lot of our games were like that,” she said. “It was good because we’ve got to get used to that, especially if we go far.”
Cashman and Jenni Borfitz scored 12 points apiece for Norwich, which received 10 from Carin Kuhn.
Oneonta 60, Norwich 51
NORWICH: Carin Kuhn 4 0-0 10, Caitlyn Brown 0 0-0 0, Breanna Cashman 4 1-4 12, Jenni Borfitz 5 0-0 12, Kassidy Seary 2 4-6 8, Makenzie Maynard 0 0-1 0, Meghan Komendarek 1 1-2 3, Shelby Benjamin 3 0-2 6. TOTALS: 19 6-15 51.
ONEONTA (11-1, 9-0): Abby Picinich 3 0-0 7, Kendall Gillette 0 1-2 1, Brieanna Baker 3 0-2 7, Ceili Getman 0 0-0 0, Meg Burns 2 1-3 5, Rachel Wessells 2 0-0 4, Mariah Ruff 5 9-13 22, Marie Stiller 0 0-0 0, Brittney Herrick 4 2-3 10, Gabby Richardson 0 0-0 0, Madison Miller 1 2-2 4. TOTALS: 20 15-25 60.
Norwich 6 17 9 19 - 51
Oneonta 20 17 8 15 - 60
Three-point field goals: N 7 (Kuhn 2, Cashman 3, Borfitz 2); O 5 (Ruff 3, Picinich, Baker). JV score: Norwich, 46-40.
Dean Russin can be reached at email@example.com or 607-432-1000, ext. 215.