SYRACUSE _ Two themes emerged over the final five-plus minutes of Saturday’s Class B girls basketball state quarterfinal in the SRC Arena at Onondaga Community College:
• Oneonta High’s Mariah Ruff is really good;
• The Yellowjackets’ defense might have been even better.
Ruff capped off a scintillating 28-point, 10-rebound, eight-assist afternoon by scoring the game’s final seven points, including a go-ahead three-pointer with 1:35 left. OHS’ defense permitted zilch to Section Three’s Utica Notre Dame over the final 5:05 en route to a 57-52 victory.
Now the Yellowjackets (20-1) will head to the state semifinals for the third time in five years. They’ll play three-time defending state champion Irvington at 10 a.m. Friday in a Class B semifinal at Hudson Valley CC in Troy.
Oneonta’s last visit to HVCC ended with a 54-33 loss to Irvington in the 2010 Class B state championship game. Section One’s Irvington (20-2) advanced with a 62-41 win over Section 11’s Southampton on Friday.
Irvington and OHS are ranked 1-2 in the state, respectively, but none of the Yellowjackets seemed interested in thinking ahead after Saturday’s victory.
“After losing it two times in a row, we finally won one,” Ruff said of state quarterfinal losses to Cazenovia and South Jefferson the past two years. “It was a great win.”
Added third-year OHS coach Matt Miller: “They were a quality team and obviously Emily Durr is as good as anyone we’ve seen all season long, but I think these seniors felt a sense of urgency and they knew there were no do-overs. We just gutted it out. The last three minutes of that game, we were in the right spots, we took good shots and our defense was great.”
Perhaps it was fitting that as the final seconds ticked off, the teams respective No. 22s _ Ruff and Durr _ embraced each other for a few seconds. They were AAU travel teammates over the summer on the elite Albany City Rocks and took this game to a level normally not seen at the Class B level.