Elba shatters SK hoop dreams at state tourney
By John Bernhardt
For the third time in five seasons, semi-final play cut short the South Kortright Lady Rams dream of winning a second New York State Class D basketball championship.
The Rams fell behind early and couldn’t make up the difference as they lost, 57-44, to Section Five’s Elba Saturday morning at Hudson Valley Community College in Troy. Elba capped an undefeated 2011-12 campaign defeating Argyle, 48-34, to win the state title on Sunday.
Although the evolution of basketball sees more and more guard play with all five starters playing farther and farther from the basket, size matters in championship play. Elba built a strategy around a tall front line, packing their defense in the three-second lane to create double team scenarios designed to slow SK’s stellar senior center Robyn Ward. “We knew we had to stop Robyn Ward,” Elba coach Tom Nowak told an Oneonta Daily Star reporter after the contest.
That strategy combined with nagging full-court pressure unnerved the Rams early in the game. Ward would launch only five shots in the first half, and SK couldn’t find the range from outside, hitting only seven of 26 shots in the first half and falling behind 35-17 by intermission.
The Lancer’s had a potent inside/outside attack that was difficult to contain. Senior center Meg Stucko and junior strong forward Jamie Marshall teamed to control the paint, scoring 24 points and pulling down over 20 rebounds.
The laser-like outside shooting of senior guard McKenzie Bezon stretched SK’s defense, giving the inside tandem room to operate. McKenzie shot six of nine field goal attempts that included four three-point goals and went seven-of-eight from the foul line to score a game-high 23 points.
SK found their game in the second half, outscoring Elba 27-22, and closing the gap to as little as nine points. Down 50-40 with just under three minutes in the game, Bezon buried a three-point goal to wipe out any chance of a miracle finish by the Rams.
Robyn Ward finished her remarkable basketball career at South Kortright by scoring a team-high 17 points.