Time Out: March 13, 2013

Keith Danzy knows how Jackie and Jack Harbaugh felt while watching their coaching sons battle it out in this year’s Super Bowl. Danzy could hardly sit still in the stands, glued to the action during Saturday’s New York State Class B Girls Basketball Regional Championship at the brand new Onondaga Community College Event Center in Syracuse.

There were two reasons for Danzy’s unease. Danzy is the basketball coach of the Rock, an elite girls’ national AAU basketball team in Albany. Two of his players, Emily Durr from Utica Notre Dame and Mariah Ruff who plays for Oneonta, were battling it out for a New York State regional championship and for the right to lead their teams to the state Final Four.

No right answer
“I was like a nervous parent watching both these great players compete today. It was tough to cheer during the last minutes of the game,” Danzy said after the game.
When it came to nervousness Danzy wasn’t alone. As the clock ticked down, a packed arena, with most fans well aware of the friendship and camaraderie of the game’s two point guards, hung on every shot.

When Notre Dame called time out with just under two minutes to play in the game, the giant event center scoreboard explained the tension. The numbers read Utica Notre Dame 52 – Oneonta 52.
And under each team’s roster, the number 22 was key. Durr’s uniform number is 22 on the Notre Dame side and Ruff’s is number 22 on Oneonta’s half of the big board. That’s the number of points each team’s point guard had scored to that point in the game.

The contest was decided when Ruff buried a monster three-point shot from the top of the key. On the advice of her coach, Matt Miller, the Oneonta star later found herself singing the ABCs behind the foul line with 12 seconds remaining to play. Ruff had been struggling from the charity stripe and Miller was hoping to arm her with a strategy to diffuse the pressure when she shot a free throw.
The gambit worked as Ruff dropped in both foul shots, and the Yellowjackets advanced to Friday’s Final Falls at Hudson Valley Community College with a 57-52 victory. Ruff scored the game’s final seven points.

Even more telling were Saturday’s hugs. Ruff dropped the game ball from her hands as the scoreboard reached two seconds to embrace Durr near center court. Both girls got hugs from their AAU coach after the game.

“We’re like a big family on the Rock,” Danzy explained. “These kids really respect each other’s game and care for each other. Emily and Mariah were both winners out on that basketball court today.  We’re making plans to play in some national tournaments so these girls get the exposure to the big colleges that they deserve.”