EAST GREENBUSH — Anticipating the presence of 6-foot-4 Olivia Owens camped out in the middle of Niskayuna’s defense, Columbia worked extra hard to sharpen its perimeter offense before Friday’s Section II Class AA first-round basketball game.
That paid off for the Blue Devils, even with Owens sitting on the bench all game.
Lexi Van Vorst nailed five of Columbia’s eight 3-point baskets, and the Blue Devils ended Niskayuna’s season and Owens’ all-star career with a 46-36 win.
Niskayuna coach Sarah Neely said Owens, her team’s Maryland-bound rebounding and scoring leader, had eye surgery earlier Friday to repair a torn retina. Owens was on hand to support the Silver Warriors, but after the pre-game warmup and the captains’ chat with the officials, the career 1,000-point scorer never stepped back on the court.
“We came in with a big challenge,” Neely said.
“She had been playing with it,” Neeley said. “Her eye started to bother her really bad, so she got it taken care of. She is going to be fine. There was a possibility she could have come back if we won.”
Niskayuna (No. 9 seed, 9-12) showed a piece of its future when 6-foot freshman Olivia Olsen, a JV call-up, scored her first varsity points on a layup late in the opening half to give the visitors a 13-11 lead. Van Vorst hit a pair of 3s before the half was through, and Columbia (No. 8, 9-12) extended its advantage with a 13-8 third-quarter run.
“Tonight we couldn’t find our offense,” Neely said. “Columbia did a nice job at both ends.”
Owens had generated 25 points in a 63-48 loss to Shenendehowa Tuesday. Her scoring was greatly missed.
“Their defense did nothing we hadn’t seen before,” said Neeley, whose team had split two regular season games with Columbia. “Unfortunately, we couldn’t execute.”
Columbia created more than half of its points on 3-pointers, several of them the byproduct of fine inside-outside passing.
“Our coach stresses inside-outside to get the shots off,” Van Vorst, a junior, said after totaling 19 points. “Our team is relatively small. We mostly shoot threes.”
Columbia’s lead grew to 33-21 when Van Vorst opened the fourth quarter with her final 3-pointer, that make boosting her school single-season record to 51. Niskayuna got as close as six three times down the stretch.
“We had a couple of tight games where we struggled at the end,” Columbia coach Jim Obermayer said. “It was nice to maintain the lead and take care of the ball. This was a big step for this group.”
Columbia’s only senior starter, Emily Zeyak finished with 10 points and four steals. Lauren Obermayer had 10 points and four blocks.
“It was one of our best defensive showings all year,” Zeyak said.
Ivy Owens led Niskayuna with 14 points, five rebounds and four assists.
Columbia goes to defending Clas AA champ Shenendehowa (No. 1, 18-2) Wednesday.
St. Lucia 0-1-1, Souky 1-0-2, I. Owens 4-4-14, Hamilton 2-0-4, Prian 2-1-7, Kelly 1-0-2, O’Meally-Turnbull 2-0-4, Olsen 1-0-2. Totals: 13-6-36.
Van Vorst 5-4-19, Zwanka 1-0-2, McHale 1-0-3, Zeyak 3-3-10, L. Obermayer 3-3-10, Roldan 1-0-2. Totals: 14-10-46.
Niskayuna 5 8 8 15 – 36
Columbia 8 9 13 16 – 46
Three-point goals: I. Owens 2, Prian 2, Van Vorst 5, McHale, Zeyak, L. Obermayer.
Reach Gazette Sportswriter Jim Schiltz at 518-395-3143, [email protected] or @jim_schiltz on Twitter.
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Categories: High School Sports, Sports