Nobody ever told the Saratoga Springs girls’ basketball team that a zone defense has to be a passive defense.
Using their quickness and agility, the Blue Streaks harrassed and frustrated Schenectady with a variety of different zones and ushered the Lady Patriots out of the Section II Class AA tournament Wednesday night with a 52-43 first-round victory at the Pat Riley Sports Center.
“We wanted to get in their face and apply as much pressure as possible,” said Saratoga sophomore point guard Kala Crawford. “It worked out our way.”
Saratoga (Suburban Council No. 6
seed, 10-11) set the tone with 10 first-quarter steals and a 12-6 lead, and never let Schenectady (Big 10 No. 3 seed, 12-9) climb all the way back. The Blue Streaks led by two early in the fourth quarter, 36-34, and put the contest away with nine unanswered points over a three-minute stretch.
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That scoring drought was one of several for the short-handed Lady Patriots, who extended their sectional losing streak to six games going back to 2003.
“I feel like we didn’t play our game. We allowed Saratoga to completely dominate the game,” said Schenectady coach Carol Lupo. “We made mistake after mistake. You can’t win with 29 turnovers, and with that kind of shooting.”
Crawford was a defensive sparkplug with seven steals while also collecting 12 points and six assists. Her Schenectady counterpart, junior point guard Samara Butler, missed the game due to a knee injury, and the Lady Patriots missed her solid ball handling.
“That was a really big injury, and it hurt them,” said Saratoga coach Mike Hall. “Knowing she wouldn’t be out there, we wanted to create
chaos. We wanted to create havoc.”
Butler had an outstanding game against Saratoga in the Arthur Hilliard Tournament semifinals, totaling 16 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists. The Lady Pats rallied from a 17-point, second-quarter deficit to win that December matchup, 66-59.
“In that game, they came out in the second half and killed us,” said Crawford. “Basically, this was a payback game, plus, it keeps us alive in the sectionals.”
Junior forward Staci McElroy led Saratoga with 17 points to go along with 11 rebounds. She started the game with a jumper and a layup, and dropped in another layup to begin the Blue Streaks’ decisive 9-0 spurt in the fourth quarter. Casey Harkins followed with a free throw, and then two more, and successful drives by Crawford and Kathleen Hannan made it 45-34 with 4:22 left.
“I feel like this wasn’t the same team that practiced well all week,” said Lupo. “They’re disappointed with their performance.”
Sheila Dixon and Antonia Williams scored 13 points apiece for Schenectady, with Williams pulling down 15 rebounds.
Saratoga will take on Bethlehem (SC No. 2, 19-2) Saturday night at 6 at Amsterdam High School in a quarterfinal game.
Crawford 5-2-12, Hannan 2-0-4, Clare 1-2-4, Harkins 0-5-5, Davison 3-0-6, McElroy 7-1-17, Conley 1-2-4. Totals: 19-12-52.
Colafemina 2-0-4, Csakany 2-3-7, Dixon 6-0-13, McLean 3-0-6, Williams 5-3-13. Totals: 18-6-43.
Saratoga Springs 12 9 15 16 — 52
Schenectady 6 12 12 13 — 43
Three-point goals: McElroy 2, Dixon.