The young Shenendehowa girls’ basketball team found out how cruel sports can be on Saturday.
Seconds away from reaching the state Class AA semifinals, the Lady Plainsmen saw that dream snatched away when Cicero-North Syracuse scored with 1.8 seconds left to pull out a 54-53 win in their regional championship game at Hudson Valley Community College.
Sophomore point guard McKayla Roberts somehow found Elizabeth Miles alone under the basket for the game-winning score, stunning Shenendehowa, which had overcome a 12-point halftime deficit and taken a one-point lead with 10 seconds to play when Suburban Council Player of the Year Carly Boland calmly sank a pair of free throws.
“We battled back and got the lead, then they made a heck of a play,” said Shenendehowa coach Joe Murphy. “The girls played unbelievably hard and battled back like they have all year.”
The Section III champs had helped Shenendehowa get back in the game with untimely fouls, allowing the Lady Plainsmen to shave points off the lead without the clock moving. Miles’ winner ended three scoreless minutes for C-NS.
Murphy had an idea what was coming in the closing seconds.
“We figured she’d have the ball in her hands,” Murphy said, referring to the 5-foot-3 Roberts. “We figured she was going to try dribble penetration.
“It was like slow motion. I thought we could have gotten a deflection, but it was like that all night.”
“The end was basically, ‘McKayla, you’re going to get the ball. You may get some token pressure. Attack it, and if somebody doubles you, find the open player who’s ready to catch it and score,’ ” said C-NS coach Eric Smith.
He was as suprised as anyone that his guard found Miles under the basket, and was able to thread a pass to the senior.
“I don’t know, but I’m glad it did,” he said. “She has unbelievable vision.”
The Lady Northstars made 11 of their 15 shots in the first half in pulling out to a 37-25 lead.
“Everything they put up seemed like it went in,” Murphy said.
Shenendehowa outscored C-NS, 16-6, in the third period to begin the final eight minutes one point down.
Shenendehowa kept at it, with Boland getting her team to within 52-51 , then all but putting the Section II champs into the state Final Four.
“She’s been doing this since I coached her as an eighth-grader,” said Murphy. “She’s a big time player.”
Murphy loses just two starters — seniors Madison Shea and Ashley Acker — from the program’s first sectional title team since 2010. His message to the returning players was a simple one.
“I told them you can’t expect to get to this spot,” Murpy said. “You’ve got to use it as motivation to keep working on your game, because you never know when you’ll have this opportunity again.
“We had a young group here a few years ago. and they never got back to this point. I told them to learn from it, but use is as motivation and stay hungry.”
M. Roberts 6-1-14, Norris 5-0-10, Miles 3-2-8, Tortora 4-0-11, Free 3-3-9, S. Roberts 1-0-2. Totals: 22-6-54.
Shea 1-1-3, Boland 6-6-20, Brown 4-1-9, Sangare 5-2-15, Acker 0-0-0, Hulbert 2-1-5, Quinn 0-1-1. Totals: 18-12-53.
C-NS 16 21 6 11 — 54
Shenendehowa 12 13 16 12 — 53
Three-point goals: M.Roberts, Tortora 3, Boland 2, Sagare 3.