Graber carries Schalmont to Class B girls’ basketball state championship game

Schalmont's Payton Graber and General Brown's Kori Nichols go after the loose ball during Saturday’s Class B girls’ basketball state semifinal game at Hudson Valley Community College.

Schalmont's Payton Graber and General Brown's Kori Nichols go after the loose ball during Saturday’s Class B girls’ basketball state semifinal game at Hudson Valley Community College.

TROY — Sitting on the bench with four fouls, all Schalmont star Payton Graber could do was root and watch as General Brown cut into her team’s lead late in the third quarter of Saturday’s state Class B semifinal basketball game.

Early in the fourth, General Brown caught up.

“I knew I had to do something,” said Graber, who was back on the court for all of the decisive fourth frame. “I tried to step up on offense, and the team did the rest on defense.”

Graber scored 13 of her 19 points in the last quarter including the go-ahead basket, and Schalmont got real stingy down the stretch in a physical and foul-filled 52-42 win at Hudson Valley Community College.

“Payton got back in the game and got hot,” Schalmont coach Jeff Van Hoesen said after the  matchup between first-time final four participants. “She’s always had a refuse-to-lose attitude. She’s the ultimate competitor. She will do anything she can to help this team win.”

Karissa Antoine also played the fourth quarter with four fouls, and contributed the other six points when the Sabres outscored the Lions of Section III 19-13 to seal their state final berth.

Schalmont (26-1) will meet Section Section V unbeaten Waterloo (26-0) Sunday at 11:45 a.m. in the Class B title game after the state’s No. 1-ranked team used a big second half to beat Putnam Valley 61-39 earlier Saturday.

“When I look at them, they’re kind of like us,” Van Hoesen said of Waterloo. “They’ve got a big girl inside and some good shooters.”

Some of Schalmont’s complementary shooters came up real big in the first half when the Sabres were trying to figure out the 2-1-2 zone defense employed by the long and tall Lions. Gianna Cirilla sank two 3-pointers, and Siena Hallberg and Arianna Brandon both hit one of them to help stake Schalmont to a 20-17 lead. Hallberg drilled another 3 late in the third quarter when General Brown was clawing back in.

“We knew they were going to focus on me, Payton and Haley [Burchhardt],” said Antoine, a 6-foot sophomore center who finished with 13 points and 11 rebounds. “I had confidence in the other girls.”

“All of them had to step up,” Graber said. “In practice we always say, ‘If you’re open, you have to shoot.’”

General Brown (23-3) closed the third quarter with a 7-3 push to make it 33-29 after Graber was called for her fourth foul with 1:55 to play and took a seat. General Brown began the fourth quarter with a 9-5 spurt, tying the contest at 36 on two free throws by Kori Nichols and at 38 on a layup by Karsyn Fields. Just before that basket, Hallberg exited with her fifth foul.

“We weathered the storm with foul trouble,” Van Hoesen said.

Graber gave Schalmont a 41-38 edge and began a finishing 14-4 run on three-point play with 5:32 remaining. The senior guard then sandwiched 3s around a Nichols putback basket to boost the Sabres lead to 47-40, and increase her career scoring total to 2,002 points.

“I think it was a combination of our defense and them getting frazzled,” Graber said of the closing 14-4 run.

Antoine sank two free throws and a layup and, after Emma Dupee hit a jumper for General Brown, Graber sank a free throw for the final margin.

“That’s just Payton,” Antoine said of the six-year varsity player. “I knew when she was sitting there, she was going to get it together and she was going to get after it.”

Graber picked up her third foul and sat the final 4:15 of the second quarter, with that coming in the midst of a 9-0 run that had General Brown up 16-14. Hallberg and Cirilla followed with 3s.

“They all stepped up,” said Van Hoesen, who got a combined 31 minutes from Brandon and Mikaela Frank off the bench. “They all love each other and want to do well for each other.”

Brandon first came on when Burchhardt went down with a twisted ankle with 3:33 left in the first quarter, but the senior guard got taped up and came back on the court with 24 seconds left in that period to a loud ovation from the Schalmont fans.

Burchhardt scored all five of her points from the line and added eight assists and five rebounds. She sank three of those free throws and Antoine had two baskets when Schalmont outscored General Brown 10-5 to start the third quarter and take a 30-22 lead.

“Haley would have come back with a broken leg,” Van Hoesen said of the senior guard. “She’s that tough.”

Ainsley Fuller had 10 points and 11 rebounds for General Brown, and Nichols and Dupee also scored 10 points.

“We thought we had a chance,” Graber said of reaching the state final. “But to be here, it’s insane.”

Waterloo outscored Section I’s Putnam Valley (18-8) in the third quarter 20-11 and in the fourth 17-5 to clinch its semifinal win. Four Waterloo players scored in double figures, including 6-foot-1 Giananna White-Principio who had a double-double with 11 points and 15 rebounds.

Schalmont will bring a No. 2 state rank into the game and hopes of a first state championship.

“That’s a good team, and we’ve got to work hard,” Graber said. “Everyone has to play their role.”

Schalmont 14 6 13 19 — 52

General Brown 7 10 12 13 — 42

Schalmont scoring: Hallberg 2-0-6, Cirilla 2-0-6, Graber 6-2-19, Antoine 5-3-13, Burchhardt 0-5-5, Brandon 1-0-3. General Brown scoring: L. Dupee 1-0-2, Nichols 2-6-10, Fields 4-1-9, Fuller 3-4-10, E. Dupee 4-1-10, Ferris 0-1-1. Scoring totals: Schalmont 16-10-52, General Brown 14-13-42.

Categories: High School Sports, Rotterdam, Sports

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