By Dean Russin
The Daily Star
---- — DELHI — South Kortright had the looks that killed Friday night at SUNY Delhi’s Clark Field House.
And almost all of them were open.
“Everyone on this team can shoot,” said guard Brianna Laing, an eighth-grader who scored a game-high 16 points to lead the Rams to a 59-41 victory over Davenport in the Delaware League girls basketball championship game. “We don’t ever look for someone specific.”
That’s why four SK players scored in the first quarter, which ended with the Rams ahead, 21-2.
Laing keyed the Rams’ 14-0 run to start the game by hitting two open three-pointers inside the first three minutes. She had eight points at the end of the quarter, which featured all six of senior forward Kayla Craft’s points, four of senior forward Miquela Hanselman’s 11 points and a three-pointer by freshman guard Tori Rockefeller.
“They’re No. 1 in the state for a reason,” said Davenport coach Ray Preston, who entered the title game with a chance to become the winningest girls basketball coach in New York state history. “The balance, they got us early. We didn’t identify shooters early and we didn’t make anything.”
Rockefeller hit the second of her three three-pointers 45 seconds into the second period, giving the Rams (18-0) what appeared to be an insurmountable 24-4 lead.
The Wildcats (15-3) didn’t give in, though, as six points from Sam Maidens contributed to a 14-7 spurt that pulled Davenport to 28-16 at halftime.
The Wildcats got points from five players in the first 4:05 of the third quarter and closed to 32-26 with a 10-4 run capped by Sarah Haight’s layup off an inbounds pass.
Hanselman put the Rams back in control by swishing an open three-pointer from the top of the key 22 seconds later, though.
“Unfortunately, we didn’t sustain that comeback,” said Preston, who is 619-164 in 34 seasons as Davenport’s head coach. His career win total is tied with retired Red Hook coach John Kuhn for the most in New York. “They went down and hit a three and I looked up and (their lead) went to nine. Then it went to 15 and I said, ‘Oh no.’”
Junior guard Kayla Warycha kept the Rams on top by scoring eight points in the last 3:04 of the third quarter.
Warycha first drew a foul on Kassie Jeffers while grabbing an offensive rebound and hit both of the ensuing free throws. She followed with two stop-and-pop field goals from free-throw range, then drove the lane to tag Sam Maidens with a blocking foul. That led to two more free throws as SK took a 43-28 lead with 47.1 seconds to play in the third.
“She can do that,” SK coach Josh Burroughs said of Warycha, who finished with 10 points. “She’s been playing with us for two years, so she can do that. It was just that process of getting the confidence out there. We thought if they were going to play us the same way as they did last time, those girls (Warycha and Laing) were going to get the open looks and take that shot or take that drive if it’s there.”
Rockefeller’s final three came early in the fourth quarter, when she scored eight of her 15 points. SK scored its other fourth-quarter points at the foul line as Laing went 3-for-4, Hanselman hit 2 of 2 and Sam Acuna made 1 of 2 free throws.
“Burroughs kind of yelled at us in the locker room at halftime and told us to get our heads out of our butts,” Rockefeller said. “Some games are tough, but we pull through.”
Burroughs improved to 119-11 in his sixth season with the Rams, who have won the last four Delaware League crowns and are looking to win their third straight Section Four Class D championship.
“He’s our biggest motivation,” Laing said. “If we didn’t have him as our coach, we wouldn’t be this good.”
The Rams earned the No. 2 seed for sectionals and will host o. 15 Downsville (8-8) in the opening round at 6 p.m. Tuesday.
Preston’s next chance to own the state record for all-time victories comes at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, when his third-seeded Wildcats host No. 14 Stamford (10-7).
“You have to respect him,” Burroughs said of Preston. “He gets the most out of his players every year and he prepares his team so well.”
Dean Russin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 607-432-1000, ext. 215.