Girls' basketball teams battle as they face top-tier league competition

By Julia Green
SK 44, Margaretville 22 (Jan. 8)
The Margaretville girls’ varsity basketball team played host to the Rams of South Kortright on Thursday night in a game rescheduled due to inclement weather. The host Blue Devils (5-3, 2-3) fell to the Rams 44-22.
“Overall, I was concerned going into the game; we had gone such a long time in between games,” said Head Coach Kyle Holden. “But I was pleased with the effort we put on the floor. I knew offensively we might be a bit rusty, but defensively we did a good job and limited the damage in the middle, which was what we were trying to accomplish.”
South Kortright took an early lead, outscoring Margaretville 13-4 in the first quarter. Seven of the Rams’ 13 points were tallied by Renee Craft, who led SK with 16 points overall. It was a low-scoring second quarter, with Margaretville limiting the Rams to just four points while tallying three of their own, and Holden said that defensively, he felt his team’s rotations were better, and that his players responded and reacted better to the Kortright offense.
The Blue Devils tallied 20 rebounds in the first half, complemented by four steals and five blocks.
It was in the third quarter, however, that the wheels came off the wagon, as Margaretville tallied just three points to South Kortright’s 15, widening the gap to 22 points. Ten of SK’s points came in the last two minutes of the quarter, while the Blue Devils continued to struggle to find the basket.
“I think we hit the wall a little bit,” Holden said. “We came out, played aggressively as we try to do, gave up some fouls and I think a lot of those points were foul shots that they put down. That was where they stretched us out a little bit. And our offense really didn’t start to play again until the fourth quarter, and by then it was too late. But South Kortright is a really good team. That was kind of what I anticipated.”
Margaretville battled back in the fourth and final quarter, however, scoring more points in the final quarter than they had all game. The Blue Devils tallied 12 points in the closing period, led by Erica Faulkner with six points and Casey Hubbell with four.
“They picked up the intensity,” Holden acknowledged. “One of the big things we’ve been focusing on is what we do have, not what we’re missing – again, finding a balance out there on the floor and knowing each other’s strengths and weaknesses.
“We’re trying to get the girls prepared to play big minuets,” he added. “Everybody on the team is going to be needed with seven girls.”
Since the start of the season, the Blue Devils have lost two starting players and as such are now on their third starting rotation.
Faulkner led the Blue Devils Thursday night with nine total points and eleven rebounds.

Andes 56, Hunter 66 (Jan. 9)
Rachel Andrews set the tone for the Andes girls Friday night, tallying 19 points and 16 rebounds when the Mountaineers traveled to Hunter. Karli Tait contributed 16 points and 13 rebounds and Mariah Ruff added 11 for Andes, who moved to 1-5 on the season.
“We started out well, and Hunter was in a 2-2-1 press and we managed to get behind it a few times, and our girls did a good job of moving the ball,” said Head Coach Jeff Rhone. “But then they switched and that’s when things started to change; we didn’t adjust well.”
Following a first quarter in which Andes outscored Hunter 18-7, the Wildcats made that change before the second quarter, during which they outscored the visiting Mountaineers 17-10.
Hunter followed that with a damaging third quarter, in which Devin Friedman scored 16 of her 30 total points to take a 48-40 lead.
“That’s traditionally been kind of a rough quarter for us,” Rhone said. “We just can’t seem to come out and start out in the same way, and I don’t know if it’s conditioning or what, but we haven’t played well.”
Andes battled back in the fourth quarter, scoring 16 points to Hunter’s 18.
“That was better,” Rhone said. “We scored a little more. But defensively, I felt like we played really well in the half-court in the first half and less than mediocre in the second half. Early in the game, when they were really pressing us, the girls were really moving the ball well and advancing it quickly and we got a lot of easy looks and I was very pleased with that. We got results by doing that.
“We’re at the point now where we need to think about our pursuit of the ball,” he added. “They’ve started to box out, but we don’t pursue after we box out. That’s the next step: continuing with the defense and start working on really going after the ball.”
The Andes girls travel to South Kortright to play at 7 p.m. on Thursday.

Gilboa 23, Margaretville 27 (Jan. 9)
In a much closer match-up than the two teams’ meeting earlier in the season, the host Margaretville girls’ team defeated the visiting Wildcats of Gilboa Central School 27-23 on Friday night, led by Erica Faulkner with 13 points.
“I think playing as hard as the girls did the night before really took a lot of juice out of them for the Gilboa game,” Holden said. “Gilboa came out and they were aggressive on defense and pinched on Brandi [Balcom] repeatedly; I think she had just five points for the whole game. So I think fatigue played a part. Our trap and our press were not what they usually are, and we tried to create a little offense and we were a step slow. But the girls did a good job getting the lead and hanging on to it.”
Friday’s action got off to a slow start, with the first bucket not falling until just three minutes remained in the first quarter. A highly defensive quarter resulted in only three points, with the Blue Devils leading 3-0 at the end of the quarter.
Offensive play at both ends of the court was only slightly more active in the second quarter, with Gilboa finally getting on the board with four minutes remaining in the half. The Wildcats began to close the gap in the last minute of the half, with a drive to the bucket falling and a foul shot bringing Gilboa to within three. The play was almost recreated 15 seconds later, but a big block by Margaretville’s Brandi Balcom denied the shot and protected the Blue Devils’ three-point lead.
Balcom sank a free throw with three seconds remaining in the half to give Margaretville a four-point lead going into halftime.
Scoring picked up noticeably in the third quarter, with the two teams all but trading baskets as Gilboa tallied 11 points to Margaretville’s eight to make it a one-point game going into the fourth and final quarter. The Wildcats scored two quick buckets to take their second lead of the game, but the Blue Devils almost immediately went on an 8-1 scoring run, with Balcom, Faulkner, Casey Hubbell and Brittney Hull scoring a bucket apiece to retake the lead.
“In terms of the fourth quarter – I was proud of the way the girls fought through fatigue a little bit,” Holden said. “They got to loose balls, which we needed to, and just battled. So the girls didn’t hang their heads, which is something I was very proud of. They finished that game very strong, they worked to find everybody out there, we didn’t just rely on one player.”
Things got scrappy in the final minute of play with the teams trading fouls, and Hubbell had a key steal with less than a minute remaining. With eight seconds on the clock, Hubbell found herself at the foul line, where she made two of two foul shots to seal the win for the Blue Devils.
“Brittney [Hull] hit a huge shot for us – that gave us the lead – and Casey’s foul shooting was clutch in that fourth quarter,” Holden said.
The Margaretville Blue Devils (6-3, 3-3) will host top-ranked Charlotte Valley at 7 p.m. on Thursday. 
Roxbury 21, Charlotte Valley 72 (Jan. 9)
The Roxbury girls faced the top-ranked Class D team in the State of New York on Friday night. Rachel Meckes led Roxbury with nine points and Karly Bolger and Kaitlin Brew added four apiece for the Rockets, who fell to 0-5 in league competition and 0-7 overall.
“Davenport’s probably the top team in the league,” said Roxbury Head Coach Tom Sherwood. “They’ve got a well-rounded team, an inside game, an outside game, they put pressure on you. We didn’t handle the press well, and we didn’t get back and stop their fast break. Those were a couple of things that hurt us.”
The Rockets were also missing starter Jessica Utsler, who Sherwood says is a good ball handler and is an integral part of the Rockets’ press.
“It wasn’t going to make a difference as far as who won the game, but when you lose a key player like that, it kind of takes away from what you normally do,” Sherwood said.
Friday’s game marked the first non-tournament game for the Roxbury girls since mid-December, as winter weather has wreaked havoc on local high school sports schedules.
“You kind of get out of your rhythm,” Sherwood said. “But we’ve got a lot of games coming up in the next five weeks; we’re going to be playing two to three games a week until the end of the season, so hopefully we can get something going.
“The girls have been working hard every game,” he added. “It hasn’t necessarily shown up in the wins column, but they’ve worked hard in the games, and that’s really what we’re looking for.”
The Roxbury girls will face the visiting Eagles of Downsville at 7 p.m. on Thursday.
“I think if we have all the players there, if we can get everybody healthy and back playing, we can be competitive in some of the upcoming games.”