It was Amy Hitchcock’s easiest steal of the night, and her most significant.
The senior forward went coast-to-coast for a layup following her final theft inside of the last minute, with the timely play sealing Fonda-Fultonville’s 46-36 Section II Class B first-round victory Tuesday over feisty and athletic Greenville.
“I could see the play. I jumped in front of their girl and got it,” Hitchcock said her eighth steal, which came just inside Greenville’s foul line. “I saw the basket, and I headed for it.”
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Hitchcock’s play highlighted a superb defensive effort over the final eight minutes, in which the Western Athletic Conference Northern Division champs outscored Greenville, 13-3.
Hitchcock and Paula Egelston both scored five points in the key stretch, which propelled the Lady Braves (No. 5 seed, 17-4) into Friday’s quarterfinals against Ichabod Crane (No. 4 seed, 13-7) at a site to be announced.
“I’d say it was intensity more than anything. It was win or go home. It was time to step it up,” said Hitchcock. “We needed a spark, and everyone stepped up on defense.”
Hitchcock stepped up with her finest all-around game of the season, collecting game highs with her 15 points and 19 rebounds to go with her steals. The 15 points were a season best, and equaled her total from Fonda-Fultonville’s three previous games.
“With Amy, the effort is always there,” said Lady Braves coach Wendi Waters. “She’s smart, she’s gutsy, and on defense, she’s very aware.”
All of the Lady Braves were sharp at that end with the game in the balance. The only basket Greenville (No. 12 seed, 11-10) managed in the final period was a late three-pointer by Katie Benninger, which ended a Fonda-Fultonville run of 13 consecutive points.
“We stayed in our man-to-man, and didn’t give up seconds shots,” said Waters. “We got out on their shooters. We did the things we’re supposed to do.”
“On offense, we got stale,” said Greenville junior guard Stephanie Frederick, who had 10 points and three steals. “They stepped up.”
Greenville had taken a 33-29 lead in the third quarter when Frederick nailed a three-point basket, and soon after, dropped in a pair of free throws with 2:12 left.
“We just went cold in that fourth quarter,” said Greenville coach Eileen Kiefer. “We made some bad decisions with the ball, and we went cold shooting the ball.”
A layup and free throw by Hitchcock had given Fonda-Fultonville a 42-33 advantage before Benninger sank her three-pointer with 68 seconds left. A quick turnover gave Greenville an opportunity to draw even closer, yet Hitchcock thwarted that with her clutch pickoff and basket, and Molly Sullivan and Egelston added late free throws to created the final margin.
“I’m waiting for my team to come out strong and make it easy,” said Waters, whose Lady Braves never found their offensive rhythm until the final stanza. “They never make it easy.”
Fonda-Fultonville won despite turning the ball over 30 times in a physical, often choppy, contest.
“We were really sloppy with the ball,” said Hitchcock. “They were scrappy. It was a combination of eveything.”
“We’ve got a very athletic bunch of girls,” said Kiefer. “We gave them some problems.”
Momentum began to shift Fonda-Fultonville’s way late in the third quarter when Sullivan scored on a drive and Hitchcock scored on a layup to tie the contest. A jumper by Alyssa Nowak 48 seconds into the fourth quarter gave the Lady Braves the lead for good, at 35-33, and Egelston followed with two free throws and a layup.
Egelston scored nine of her 11 points in the second half as Fonda-Fultonville bounced back from last week’s 30-29 loss to Schenectady Christian in the WAC tournament final, and won for the ninth time in 10 outings. Nowak had nine points and three blocks, and Sullivan finished with eight points and six assists.
Fonda-Fultonville defeated Broadalbin-Perth and Hudson in last year’s sectionals before losing to eventual champ Watervliet in the semifinals.
Greenville scoring leader Toressa Young managed six points, and only two in the second half.
Dudley 1-0-2, Benninger 3-2-9, Young 3-0-6, Winnie 1-0-2, Frederick 1-7-10, Stevens 3-0-7. Totals: 12-9-36.
Sullivan 2-4-8, Hitchcock 5-5-15, Nowak 3-2-9, Egelston 4-3-11, Baker 1-0-3. Totals: 15-14-46.
Greenville 7 14 12 3 — 36
Fonda-Fult. 7 13 13 13 — 46
Three-point goals: Benninger, Frederick, Stevens, Nowak, Baker.