HENRIETTA – Olean coach Randy Samuelson needed only one word to describe his team’s loss in the Class B girls basketball Far West Regionals.
That was backed up by the red eyes and sniffling by team members as they walked out of the locker room after dropping a 56-52 decision to Livonia at Rush-Henrietta High School.
“It’s a big deal for the girls,” Samuelson said. “They had a chance to go to the state tournament, and they were like four minutes away from doing that.”
The Huskies were actually closer than that. They led, 52-48, with 2:20 to go after Courtney Martin had made the second of two straight layups. But then Molly Stewart of the Bulldogs scored twice on drives to tie the game, 52-52, with 54 seconds left.
About 19 seconds later, Madeline Herzog sank an 18-footer to give Livonia the lead. But Olean had one more chance to tie the game or take the lead in the final eight seconds.
“Courtney made a great screen, and Sara (Pfeiffer) took the ball and got a good shot,” Samuelson said. “Courtney got the rebound, but the ball just didn’t fall. I guess it just wasn’t meant to be.”
Stewart made a couple of free throws in the final second to account for the winning margin, and end a game that went back and forth for most of the 32 minutes. It was an intriguing matchup between an Olean team that loved to shoot three-pointers, and a Livonia squad that seemed to grab most of the rebounds.
“We spread the court with our offense,” Samuelson said. “There’s some give and take when you do that.”
Even so, the Huskies stayed within striking distance at all times. They had a 9-0 run to start the fourth quarter to take a 48-41 lead. A switch to a zone defense in the second half helped Olean’s rebounding.
“I don’t think we’ve played zone in a month,” Samuelson said.
The Huskies finished the game with eight three-pointers, but none came after the halfway point of the third quarter. Pfeiffer, who had 33 points in Wednesday’s Section VI overall B title game, was held to 15 points.
“They were aware of her, and took her out of her game somewhat,” Samuelson said. “She still didn’t try to force anything.”
Bridgid Taylor also had 15 points, while Gabby Pfeiffer added 14 points for Olean (23-2). For the Bulldogs, Herzog had 15 points, while Stewart added 14.
After the game, Samuelson hoped that it would only take a few hours for his team to look back on the season and smile.
“We’re sad and disappointed, but we only had one loss all year before this,” he said. “We have one of the best records in school history. We have a lot to be proud of.”